Month: June 2019

The Meaning of the Cross

1 Peter 2:21-25

Couple weeks ago, Supreme Court issued decision re: Peace Cross, Bladensburg, MD, 10 miles from White House.

“The cross was chosen because it was reminiscent of the fields of crosses marking the graves of fallen soldiers buried overseas. On the pedestal supporting the cross is a bronze plaque with the names of the 49 soldiers from Prince George’s County who gave their lives in World War I.”

87-page decision in American Legion v. American Humanist Association – not only in 1st century, the cross and its message is still foolishness in 21st century.

Apostle Paul made abundantly clear in first letter to church at Corinth:

1 Cor. 1:18 Read it

Didn’t discourage Paul or cause change of mind, also makes plain preaching the cross of Christ not something he did by accident:

1 Cor. 2:1-5 Read it – I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

1 Cor. 15:3  I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 

Cross was central in Peter’s theology also. Has given instruction how we as followers of Christ should behave in public, our civic responsibilities, and in workplace. Has set high standard, the example of Lord Jesus, maybe one you think is impossible to meet. Wait until we get to part about husbands and wives!! Now before you get discouraged and hang it up, Peter has more to say… about the cross. If we are to live as pilgrims in the world, going against tide of culture, can only do it in power of the cross.

A. perfect example  v.21-23

how to live

Jesus lived purposely – intentionally living out his life as first Adam should have – walked carefully, leaving clear footprints for us

Jesus did not set bar of example impossibly high so we could never achieve it – simply lived and acted pleasing to God, showing us how to do it and made sure Gospels had the record preserved for us

how to die

here’s something that really goes contrary to culture today, including here in Maine – governor signed Maine Death with Dignity Act into law on June 12, 2019

wonder what advocates of bill would think about crucifixion, whether meets definition of dignity – Jesus didn’t protest against it, try to find way to avoid it

Jesus’ intent was to satisfy / please Father in death as in life – expects his people to follow in those footsteps just like the rest

don’t buy the (New Age) lie

w/o question, Jesus said he is the way… to the Father, not to godhood  like New-Agers claim – he showed us the way to live pleasing to the Father but not apart from Jesus

common practice with apprenticeships – show/instruct how to do it, watch apprentice do it, then “you’re on your own” – Jesus never said that to his followers

another thing Jesus never said… that we could ever satisfy God’s demands apart from him – in fact he said just the opposite, John 15:5 

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

B. problematic implementation  v.24

power of sin

as soon as we try to follow Jesus’ example, immediately find out there’s a problem – if are walking in his footsteps, should only be one set of prints behind us – go ahead, look, what do you see?

there you see power of sin over our best intentions – pushing, pulling, persuading to wander away from path Jesus’ walked

if were up to us to set standard, would figure out way to accommodate weakness, failure – drop the bar a few notches

power of the cross

instead of taking standard down, he took our sins up with him, paid full penalty

“This, the pow’r of the cross: Christ became sin for us; Took the blame, bore the wrath—We stand forgiven at the cross.”

what Jesus accomplished by his willing sacrifice intended to change how we live and die… as well as what comes after death

is only the power of the cross that breaks power of sin – to condemn us, to enslave us – can be enticed by it, need not be slave to sin

our only hope is in coming to the cross, embracing the Jesus who died there as Savior and Lord, fully depending on him and his righteousness

purpose of the cross

far more than simple insurance policy – embracing Christ does relieve of punishments of hell, does not leave us in our sin

is why God graciously prevented Adam & Eve from tree of life – is committed to fully redeeming us from corruption / condemnation from sin… beginning at moment of conversion

die to sin – dead person does not respond to anything, no matter how tempting – one who is dying to sin does not respond

since we stand forgiven at the cross, are new creatures in Christ, have power as well as desire to resist sin’s enticements

as Holy Spirit applies truth from God’s word to us, we follow Spirit’s leading, side effects of sin gradually being flushed away

live for righteousness – here’s purpose of the cross declared… not simply that we should live forever but live for righteousness – iow, “that [we] should follow his steps”

purpose not to empower us to earn God’s favor – clear reminder given: “by [his] stripes you were healed” – is Jesus’ merit, Jesus’ righteousness applied to us that gives us right standing with God

is Jesus’ power that comes to us through ministry of the Holy Spirit that equips us to live for righteousness

C. provided facilitator  v.25

shows the way – Shepherd

a shepherd leads his flock, doesn’t drive them – sheep literally follow shepherd’s steps – our shepherd has followed path all the way: life, death, heaven

Jesus doesn’t give followers GPS, expect to figure out how to get there – dozens trying to avoid traffic jam in Denver ended up stuck in mud on farm road

one driver: “There is no way that Google could have known that that was the situation out there.”

keeps his people on the way – Overseer

notice what Shepherd Overseer cares about – souls… not bodies – Jesus the only one who has resources necessary to guard our souls

because of who he is and what he has done, everyone who follows Jesus can have absolute confidence – he knows what he is doing, where he is going, will not take wrong turn or lose any along the way

The cross means God’s standard is not impossible… not because of man’s effort but because of God’s grace. For sake of his son the Lord Jesus, he accepts us as righteous and pleasing to him… when we do our part, depending / trusting him to help us. We do not need to see road ahead, only need to see one step at a time, make sure is Jesus’ footprints we are following.

People we all know, ones we will meet who are enslaved by all sorts of things, are powerless to overcome. Remember what Paul said: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Is a message of hope and encouragement for all who will listen… including us.

 

God, Why Are You Upset with Us?

Malachi 2:10-16 

Book of the Twelve begins and ends on same thematic note: marriage. Same is true for beginning and end of Old Covenant text. Might wonder what a social institution has to do with salvation – Redeemed from Ruin theme. Let’s back up a few millennia, Day 6 of Creation, principle stated in Gen. 2:24

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Notice where emphasis is – on becoming one. When God through Moses described first marriage, identified principles involved, first thing God comes to is marriage being something that demonstrates oneness, unity. Result of marriage expected, except in unusual circumstances, to involve offspring raised in home with father and mother.

If we take Adam as prototype, the first of his kind, two important things presented to us from week of Creation:

Adam as one made in image of God is to be faithful husband to his wife with whom he has become one

Adam also to be faithful father to his children in the setting of a family that demonstrates faithfulness and unity

Should be no surprise to us in New Covenant period that God has graciously given visible tangible things to represent to us invisible intangible realities – things like baptism, Lord’s table. Same is true to extent with marriage – strong parallels between marriage covenant and God’s covenant with his people. Between relationships present in marriage and family and that between God and his people. From God’s side, reaches pinnacle in Christ and his relationship with church. By no means an entirely new idea first revealed in Ephesians. Paul himself credits Moses with first presenting concept as we read above.

Given strong and close connections between God’s covenant and marriage covenant, no wonder God makes big deal about marriage being done right. Then there is practical reality – if “observance” of either covenant is compromised, both are at great risk. When principles of one are held lightly, disregard for principles regarding other quickly follow.

In our text, God not happy with his people. Through prophet Malachi identifies two primary and a secondary reason for his severe displeasure with his people followed by a stern warning. btw, don’t have to look too hard to see much of what Malachi and contemporaries experienced taking place in our own nation and neighborhoods and families.

A. dishonoring God’s covenant  v.10

one Father – relationship

personal pronoun changes here, from “you” to “we” – lets us know Malachi not talking about universal Fatherhood of God, brotherhood of man – has covenant people in view

ancient treaties emphasized sovereign/subject relationship – subjects not to forget who is in charge, what they owe to him

God no less a sovereign than ancient rulers but… not aspect of relationship that is at front here – using affection based on paternal relationship to woo his people back

one choice – election

for those who knew their Bible, this portion of Malachi’s message must have reminded of Moses’ instruction to Israelites in Deu 7

themes of marriage, election, covenant woven together – who they should not marry b/c are chosen people in covenant with God

makes it plain God chose them (not other way round) to be his people, was that God who made them a people

one family – at risk

God does deal with people as individuals, also as group – a Father who has made up a people is concerned with his entire family

one member acting out can put well-being of human family at risk – clear example of that after fall of Jericho and defeat at Ai because of one man, Achan, and sinful actions

sinning against God puts other family members, even neighbors at risk; sinning against neighbor puts relationship w/ God at risk

B. dishonoring the marriage covenant  v.11, 14-16a

setting: Ezra 10:1-17 (457 BC)  Neh. 13:23-27 (between 430 and 424 BC)

ongoing issue in Israel’s history as well as other nations / groups – is important issue, must be addressed, yet marriage issues really a symptom of something bigger

Ezra had to deal with unbiblical marriage when he arrived in Jerusalem, 30 years later Nehemiah faced with same issues

at same time, church was in trouble… all sorts of wrong things happening – neglect of church, improper use of facility, disregard for Sabbath requirements

treachery

“violation of allegiance or of faith and confidence • betrayal of trust” – if marriage intended to picture God’s relationship w/his people, making own rules for marriage a violation of allegiance to God

theological ground totally confused when believer marries unbeliever – besides practical family compromises – unbelieving spouse usually makes unbelievers of children, maybe more

puts “believer” in impossible position – cannot be loyal to both God and unbeliever, must break trust with one or other or both

violence

implication in v.11 + v.14: men had divorced wives to marry more desirable pagan women, viewed by God as domestic violence

wrenching apart two whom God had made one, tearing apart fabric of family when children involved – violence strong word that includes both cruelty and injustice

displeases God because of violent nature that is contrary to his character, defeats his intended purpose for marriage

God seeks godly offspring, those who worship him in spirit and truth, the next generation in his family as well as the home

C. dishonoring the worship of God  v.12-13

worship like nothing is wrong

disobey command that is known – had copy of the Law, reminded by Ezra and Nehemiah, could not plead ignorance

put on outward appearance of obedience – followed rituals, mostly, knowing rest of life didn’t please God = hypocrisy

religious but not moral – talked the talk, did religious things but loyalty was to things other than God, offensive to him

expect God’s continued blessing

assumed if they did some things right God obligated to respond – no thought for kind of people God wanted: “be holy…”

mourning loss of the wrong thing – grief b/c they lacked material things, not b/c relationship with God was in trouble

same for all idols they worshiped – wanted benefits promised, more a commercial kind of transaction than personal relationship

D. watch it  v.16b

of utmost importance in worship

right god – God commands full and exclusive loyalty of heart and action, will not share his glory with any other (Isa. 42:8; 48:11)

right attitude – honest, sincere desire to please God plus diligent effort higher priority for God than quality of performance

and with spouse

the one you might choose – start with principles God (not the world) has established, keep desires in check for later

the one you have – nurture loyalty / faithfulness to spouse, treat him/her as one of God’s good gifts to be cherished

anyone/thing you desire – not everything we desire is good for us or pleasing to God, should not have everything we want, governed by mind not emotions

for the sake of the church

v.15 – “he seeks godly offspring” – goes back to Creation Mandate, institution of family to provide useful citizens for church/state

in the home – right attitudes/desires need to be both modeled and taught… for sake of family, church, and state

violence and treachery in the home has profound consequences in classroom, workplace, government, church, public

in the church – disloyalty to spouse/brother/God outside the church has impact on relationships / behaviors in the church

When things aren’t going way we think they should, experiencing hardships or suffering we don’t expect – ask what is wrong with me/us, not what is wrong with God.

Problems we observe in family/church/state have root in relationship with God, attitude toward him and his commands – other problems are symptoms.

True and lasting solution to those begins with the Gospel, does not end there. e.g. refugee situation

 

God’s People Need Faithful Leaders

Malachi 2:1-9 

In previous chapter God took people and priests to task for improper attitude toward worship – in particular, people bringing, priests accepting and offering sacrifices unacceptable to God. And they expected God to be ok with that… and continue blessing them. Both people and priests were responsible for actions and attitudes, priests more so because of position of influence. Priests expected to lead people to truth with both life and lips, were seriously deficient in both.

Here God narrows focus to priests, accusing them of unfaithfulness to his covenant, threatening to bring on them curses promised for not keeping the covenant (Deut. 28). No guesswork here about what God expected of his people, how they had sinned against him, how he would respond. Like earlier at Nineveh, God’s threats are great act of grace – warning his people, giving time for repentance, opportunity to get back to right standing with God.

Some details different for us – are under different / New covenant, so not surprising things might have changed. No longer single place for worship, gather on Sunday rather than Saturday, many ceremonial requirements don’t apply. However… God is still the same, need to treat what he says to us with as much respect as ancient people should have. And basic principles of worship have not changed – first and most important is about us giving God his due, taking to heart what he gives to us, take seriously the need to give glory to God in worship.

A. God must be taken seriously  v.1-4

need to hear what he says

are to be active listeners to God in his Word and in worship – pay close attention with goal of comprehension

striving to make mental associations, find hook to hang it on (or one it’s already on), keep it accessible for future use

those in leadership in particular need to master God’s truth not just for own benefit – need to understand it well enough to pass along to others… accurately

Neh. 8:8 “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.”

need to take it to heart

iow, take what God says seriously – God not like us, talking endlessly about things that won’t matter in 100 years (minutes)

everything God says has significance – not taking his word to heart means we don’t really take God seriously

God expects his Word not to merely inform but to transform – both process and result of transformation give glory to God

is those who have been and are continually being transformed who give kind of glory to God (worship) he wants/deserves

God will have his way

is against God’s character to simply stand by while he is not honored, even dishonored… esp. by those who should know better

God also not content to deal only with present… is concerned about future… and so should his people be – what is done now forms foundation, sets stage for future generations

if his leaders and people fail to heed, will get worse than egg on faces – both they and their rituals will be covered in refuse

refuse / offal what was removed from sacrificial animal before offered as burnt offering, then burnt outside the camp because considered unclean

strong implication if Malachi’s hearers (priests and people) continued disregarding God’s expectations, would be treated same as offal and destroyed

bottom line: God was / is determined to have a people who respect him and his covenant, take worship seriously, do their best in his strength to please him

B. Levi was a good example  v.5-7

God gave, Levi responded

at head of line was Aaron, from tribe of Levi, ones to whom worship responsibilities were entrusted

might seem otherwise, harsh and confining and impossible to keep, yet God’s intent was for good of his people

God would be faithful to his covenant – if his people responded properly, they could count on him for protection and provision, life, peace

God’s intention that his people would learn to fear him – “combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty” – and show him proper reverence

Levi was faithful

God didn’t give them wiggle room, couldn’t say he expected too much from them, had set his standard too high for anyone

picks out Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson (Numbers 25) – people got into serious trouble, sacrificing and worshiping Moabite gods until God sent a plague

Phinehas took action, stopped the plague – feared God more than he feared powerful people among both Jews and Midianites

he was influential… for good

as good leader Phinehas taught truth – people could count on getting right instruction from him as spiritual leader

in both day to day life and at time of crisis he put his understanding of God’s truth into action, did the hard but right thing

did as God expected one in his position to do – lived at peace with others, had reputation for integrity, honored God with life/lips

result of his constant faithfulness – God used his teaching and example to turn many away from sin, iow were converted

C. you have undone what he did  v.8-9

priests were unfaithful

not simple neglect, harmless error, failure to do good job professionally – weren’t doing it right in their own lives

apparently in God’s eyes behavior in private life / off the clock is as important as job performance… particularly in the church

nothing about slipping, backsliding, losing their way – was an intentional turning aside from what they knew was right

priests encouraged the people to be unfaithful

didn’t want to lose face by having people show them up so… dragged everyone down with them, leading astray

encouraged others to believe couldn’t or didn’t need to meet God’s standard, put every covenant blessing in jeopardy

not something that went away quickly – think Pharisees of Jesus’ day, how much they twisted true sense of law into something incredibly burdensome

there would be serious consequences for all

their plan would backfire – instead of maintaining reputation and influence, God would make sure they were held in contempt and humiliated before everyone

if there were no serious repentance on part of priests and people, covenant curses would kick in and everyone would lose

Have some liberties now they didn’t then – aren’t stuck with corrupt / incompetent spiritual leaders. Have opportunity and responsibility to sit under sound teaching. Right along with that, need to do two things: encourage those spiritual leaders who are, like Phinehas, doing well; take God’s word and their teaching to heart, working along with Holy Spirit to be transformed by the Word.

Another blessing we have – his Word in variety of versions suited to different reading abilities that make it less challenging to read and comprehend. Need to make the time, listen with intention of understanding and applying, depending on Holy Spirit for help and strength.

Called to Suffer

1 Peter 2:18-23 

Need to guard against imposing 21st century stereotypes on terms Peter uses – servant and master. 1st century Roman culture structured differently from ours today, weren’t all the same categories. In Peter’s day, for most part were either servant/slave or master… either had slaves or were a slave. Either had someone to do your work for you or you did it for yourself.

“it must be remembered that 1st-century slaves were generally well-treated and were not only unskilled laborers but often managers, overseers, and trained members of the various professions (doctors, nurses, teachers, musicians, skilled artisans). There was extensive Roman legislation regulating the treatment of slaves. They were normally paid for their services and could expect eventually to purchase their freedom.” [Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1 Peter; Grudem, 124]

Now, in the church, many of those distinctions removed… in some cases reversing the cultural order of things. Slave with gifts and calling to be teacher or pastor in local church could easily have opportunity to instruct his master! Most often slaves, household servants [οἰκέτης (household servant), not δοῦλος (bondslave) or θεράπων (servant)] had pagan masters, some of whom were good and gently, others were not.

Peter’s exhortation to readers: have a servant heart even when that means you are called to suffer as Jesus did. Keep in mind also, suffering Peter is talking about does not always involve physical discomfort. Are other kinds of suffering often harder to bear than physical pain. Primarily in view here slave / master relationship, closest parallel today the employee / employer one. Not limited only to that, applies to every situation where we are charged with meeting expectations of another.

A. servants are to submit  v.18-20

proper attitude

there’s that word again… submit – is kind of attitude that positions well so as to perform well – hard to do good job when attitude toward supervisor/manager stinks

right attitude doesn’t depend on circumstances – Jesus’ example and expectations are enough reason to have / maintain right spirit

not stated but surely is implied, attitude should not be on roller coaster – will be exceptions, but even during those times attitude toward master should be one that pleases God

proper work habits

something fewer and fewer in our present cultural setting understand – how to work, how to learn skill and use it well, show up on time/work all shift, performing to limit of ability

“doing good” is what God expects – can take that two ways, doing task well, doing what is for good of another person

first thing is to carry out task to best of ability, doing it well, gaining rep for good workmanship and producing high quality results

rest of it: doing task in such a way that it produces good for others incl. master – make widgets efficiently and well so co. profits

proper response

will be times you do best possible, meet or exceed expectations, still get criticized / penalized in some way – take it patiently

less obvious, exceed all performance goals for six months, should receive nice pay increase, get nothing – need to maintain performance, not work down to what you think wage is worth

what about assigned task that violates conscience – preparing for or participating in worship of idol, doing what is unethical or illegal – do what is right in God’s eyes

similar scenario – do what is right in God’s eyes but not master’s: singing hymns, carrying Bible, witnessing – are treated unjustly… is commendable, finds favor with God

proper motivation

told twice: if you suffer unjustly (wrongfully) is commendable; do good and suffer, take it patiently, commendable before God

all this master / servant stuff playing out on world stage before audience… that includes God… and is his “well done” you want

what you do does not define who you are, nor does place you work – any number of occupations incl. retired, places incl. home, important thing is working for God and his approval

B. servants are called to suffer  v.21

don’t be surprised

suffering comes with the calling… to follow Christ – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matt. 16:24 

the cross is in Jesus’ statement for a reason – Christianity not for sissies, not for those afraid of hardship, will include suffering

best help for enduring well is to be prepared – know who to trust (God), what resources (Bible and believers), the goal (heaven)

Christ suffered

since the Forerunner, the one we are following suffered, should expect we will probably suffer also… plus he said so

we think of Jesus’ suffering occurring Thursday night thru Sunday morning – forget his entire earthly existence one of suffering

Isa. 53:3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.

we are to follow him

purposely left example for us: ὑπογραμμὸν – under-writing; penmanship examples, dotted patterns; Family Circus, trail kid followed

has left enough of his footprints in Gospels to know where path goes – is not really optional, Jesus expects us to follow

is by following Jesus’ footprints that we can be certain of reaching our destination – when we get off track, look to him, he picks us up and puts us on path again

C. the Servant’s example of suffering  v.22-23

all his suffering was unjust

some suffering is justified, Peter hinted at that in v.20 – “what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults”

Pilate was more right than he probably knew – “I find no fault in this Man” (Luk. 23:4) – there was none to be found

did not respond to evil with more evil

certainly had plenty of opportunity to give people dose of own medicine – and had the power to make it happen if he chose

didn’t do so himself, told his followers to not go down that road, fixed damage they caused when they did (Malchus’ ear)

did not exercise his rights

think about who Jesus really was – “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” 

had a right as Creator, as God the Son to whatever he wanted – instead “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

example he left us is one of humble service, suffering whatever indignities, disrespect, hardship sinful men sent his way

even when another might have told those who crucified him and bartered for his belongings “I’ll get you back for this”, he prayed for their forgiveness

did trust God

his last words before death, “Father, it’s all in your hands”…and he left it there – knew he could trust his Father with his present and his future

same God can be counted on for our present and future – if God really is in charge of it, can be certain none of the suffering that comes our way is excessive, unnecessary, outside God’s perfect plan

When suffering comes our way, need to do as Peter did – not get all wrapped up in how much we are suffering, how much we have to endure, how unjust it all is. Instead look for Jesus and the footprints he left behind for us to follow in.

51. Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?

Mark 14:48 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?”

Read: Mark 14:43-50; Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:3-14 

 

Setting:

Garden of Gethsemane, following third plea with his Father; awakened Peter, James, John

confronted by Judas and a great multitude (aka, a mob) with several sorts of people:

“detachment of troops and the captain” (John 18:3, 12) – Roman military tribune in charge of cohort of 600 (1/10 legion), probably only a small detachment of troops

officers from the chief priests and Pharisees”, “officers of the Jews” – sent by the Sanhedrin – “came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders”, also called Temple Police

Romans there in supporting role, maintain order by their presence; also from Sanhedrin’s perspective, guilt by association, share responsibility in Jesus’ arrest

Person(s) being questioned:

the chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders who had come to Him” – Luke 22:52 

they were the ones who had both prior opportunity and authority to act against Jesus

Question behind the question:

What convinced you to choose this time for this kind of action?

Who do you really think I am anyway?

Have you already passed judgment, is the sentence a forgone conclusion? Is that why you brought the Romans?

Expected response:

Jesus probably didn’t expect one at this point – were not of a mind to do anything more that might indicate they weren’t in charge

had already responded in fear to Jesus’ self-identification – John 18:4-6 

if questions were delaying tactic, they were having none of it – the longer all this took, more likely word would get out and plan would be foiled

as for question about identity: probably most really don’t know, just know he represents some kind of perceived threat against current religious and perhaps political system

Jesus’ point:

Mark, Matthew, Luke – if what they were doing was truly right, could have been done “publicly” in daylight; no need for secrecy

this not their first opportunity to take action against Jesus, must be some kind of justification in their minds for night-time raid

more to their show of force than simple need – intended to make a point: this guy is really dangerous, needs to be neutralized or eliminated

perhaps small factor in being so large a group and well armed: if Jesus tried any of his magic stuff, they would be ready

then Jesus gets to foundational reasons: 1) fulfillment of prophecy (Mark 14:49); 2) Satan’s power at work (Luke 22:53)

Modern Application:

from the use of a betrayer to the time of day and method of arrest to all that took place later – a complete miscarriage of justice… and yet Jesus submitted to it even though he had countless options

he made the point clearly that armed resistance against religious or military/government authority even when they act unjustly is not the appropriate response

even for all that, the end in no way justified the means even though the means were according to God’s divine plan – the right thing done the right way for the right reason according to God’s standard is always right

Where Is My Honor?

Malachi 1:6-14 

God begins address to his people by declaring the fact of his love. He defends veracity (truthfulness and accuracy) of declaration by giving particular examples. Since love of God for his people has been proven, proper response from people is expected… honor and fear/reverence. Because God truly loves his people, he simply cannot overlook their failure to respond properly. When people challenge God’s “take” on their behavior, no way is God going to back off, say “nevermind, no big deal”.

It is big deal – failure of people to honor and fear God has consequences in all areas of a society. For God to ignore/overlook would be fatal to his people and their society. Same is true for us in our present cultural setting – every day those consequences becoming more obvious everywhere we look. We can and should encourage right behavior when we see it, discourage wrong behavior and point out consequences when we have opportunity. What people do with warning is their responsibility.

In first part of chapter, God addressed people as a whole, now distinguishes between people and leaders, holding both accountable for their actions and attitudes. Priests had a duty to give right instruction to God’s people and set right example for them to follow. At this time of their history, priests were failing in both areas and actually leading people faster and deeper into sin. As incredibly outrageous as their behavior sounds, is far more typical than would like to think.

A. wrong ideas about God

a father who does not expect honor

not a new problem: 300 years before, Isaiah 1.2-3 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: “I have nourished and brought up children, And they have rebelled against Me; The ox knows its owner And the donkey its master’s crib; But Israel does not know, My people do not consider.”

yet is expected in civil society (and even many uncivil ones) that son will honor parents… for good reason – home the training ground for rest of life, relationships

since God is good Father who provides everything good for his people, defies reason why any would fail to gladly honor God… but were acting as though God didn’t need or expect honor

a master who does not require reverence/fear

this shouldn’t surprise – one who does not honor father will probably not show respect for master/superior/teacher/employer

“Fear of God is a combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty. One cannot honor God without lovingly respecting him, without recognizing his glorious majesty. The fear of God is always affectionate. Love of God is always deeply respectful.” Maoz

don’t be too hard on the people – more in their day than ours, were highly dependent on religious leaders

more detail in next chapter, but priests were actively leading people into serious error by their own words/attitudes/actions

a God who expects too much

devoting time, effort, and resources to worship of God as he expects is huge burden, too hard for priests / people to meet

so many things wrong with this one: starts with failure to love God, respond to God’s love – looks at only horizontal without considering vertical

difference between active and passive expression only matter of degree – don’t have to say it’s a burden to act like it is one

“it’s close enough”; “don’t feel up to it today”; factor in the body language, hurrying through preparations, etc.

B. wrong attitude toward worship

motions count but motives don’t

thought as long as they gave appearance of meeting requirements, should be good enough to get good results

apparently didn’t think through: God doesn’t need anything we bring to him, there must be more to it than simply the act and the stuff

not having right motives (duty rather than devotion, e.g.) bad enough – could maybe cut a little slack for ignorance

were at least a number who intentionally tried to deceive God – promised expensive offering to get out of a jam while intending to actually give something less valuable

God should be happy with what he gets

two kinds of giving that goes on during worship – what worshiper gives to God and fellow worshipers, what God gives

all attention given to what they were giving to God, actually despised what God was trying to give to them

acted as though doing great favor to God by their presence and that they brought something to sacrifice, looked down on what God offered

this is a burden and not a blessing

every part of body language screamed boredom and weariness with worship – the ordinances are distasteful, meaningless, tiresome, an inconvenience… and have better things to do

feel some sense of obligation to at least go through the ritual but make it fast, get it done, move on to next thing

eventually get to place where things must change for people to keep participating – make less distasteful, tiresome, inconvenient

NOTE: all these “issues” come from individual’s perspective, not God’s… viewing worship and relationship with God from bottom up rather than top down POV

C. God’s priorities

his honor of supreme importance

priests have despised his name but… God intends his name, his honor to be maintained – he will be honored by the nations

not something God begs for, simply declares it will be done – for his name to be great, he must be worshiped

is during times of formal worship that attention is drawn to God, he is praised and glorified, he and his name magnified

no worship less offensive than false worship

“isn’t there someone who will lock the door so this won’t keep happening?” – as important as worship is to God, he has his standard

if were going to persist in going to church with bad attitude, God preferred they stay home and not insult him

are many churches here in Maine with locked doors – grieves us because of what it means for communities yet… perhaps not a bad thing if God would not be rightly honored

pure people offering pure worship from pure hearts

obviously cannot achieve perfect purity in this life – does not justify an “anything goes” approach to worship

should do our best in dependence on God to approach his standard as nearly as possible

more we nourish our love for God, better we get to know him through his Word and works, more like Jesus we become

more like Jesus we are, closer we will approach the ideal – giving God the kind of worship he deserves from kind of people he wants

Worship is a big deal. When we do it God’s way, he provides amazing blessings to his people. We have advantages OT worshipers did not – not confined to one location, not required to bring animal sacrifices, not expected to make 3 pilgrimages each year. Have greater responsibilities also – present our bodies as living sacrifices, live all of life coram Deo, all while working against the clock b/c Jesus is coming!

Strength in Submission

1 Peter 2:13-17  

Remember audience and setting: many cases second-class citizens living in brutal pagan culture that glorified immoral behavior. Unwanted babies routinely abandoned and left to die. Sexual relationships of all kinds welcomed and affirmed privately and publicly throughout all levels of society. Entertainment was live and often barbaric, nearly anything could be bought for a price. Human life had little intrinsic value, among upper classes suicide often considered the honorable solution. Was well-developed system of laws, many of its basic principles still in practice today around the world.

Were substantial differences between then and now; at same time many parallels. Peter’s instructions just as important for us to understand and follow as initial readers among the Dispersion. Peter has laid foundation for the Pilgrim Life, here he begins to give more detail in particular spheres of life – civic arena and citizenship issues (2:13); the workplace and relationships with employees/employers (2:18); family life and husband/wife relations (3:1,5); finally, social relationships in general (5:5).

For each of these spheres/topics Peter uses same word, one we like when applied to someone else way more than when is expected of us: submit/submission. What Peter has in mind is voluntary, not compulsory submission. Involves both way of thinking and way of behaving. A primary reason for living in this way: silence those who would find fault with us for being followers of Christ.

Starts right out with how we should relate to that institution often seen as necessary evil… government. Doesn’t stop there, even in this short paragraph. Wraps up with summary that addresses relationships with everyone, fellow believers, God himself and government leaders.

A. good citizens  v.13-14

law-keepers

matters not where citizenship is, are expected to follow laws of place where you are – true when traveling around world, equally true for us as pilgrims in this world

Peter expects voluntary willing law-keeping, to greatest extent possible – only when civil authority forbids obedience to God or requires disobedience of God is civil disobedience justified

for the Lord’s sake

he gets to practical motivators… but they are not first – is more important reason, loyalty to and love for Christ coupled with desire to please Him in all things

lawlessness of any kind is destructive… of relationships, property, societies, nations, even life itself – all that the opposite of God’s design for man and the world

at all levels

expectation of submission to authority not limited to the one at the top – all of civil government ordained by God for purpose

when it pays strict attention to God’s intent – punish evildoers, encourage righteous – civil authority good for a society… when they are generally law-abiding citizens

with loving accountability

true for all but especially so when have civil freedoms/responsibilities like ours – can have a part in electoral and legislative process

can submit to civil authority and at same time do all we can to encourage that authority to act according to God’s plan for it

submission does not equal silence, it does shape how we speak and act – when gov’t gets off track, work to get it back on track

B. good deeds  v.15-16

doing the right thing – doing good

too often Christians known for what they are against – drinking, dancing, movies, gays, drugs, abortion, Communists, endless list

Peter tells us is God’s will that we be known for “doing good” – Paul agrees… does not say overcome evil with tougher laws, fewer guns, different President, says “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21)

in the right way – as free

submission to authority / expectation to do good not intended by God to be burdensome – designed to be a guide to freedom

Christ-followers freed from bondage to sin and death are freest people of all… regardless of any other details of circumstances

with the right motive – to serve God

no one has absolute freedom, in fact everyone is a slave – Rom. 6:16 “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?”

we should do what is right and pleasing to God because he is our Master and he has freed us from slavery in sin to serve him, iow, b/c we love him

expecting right results – and silence critics

this kind of behavior – submitting to authority and doing good – foolish, wrong-headed, doomed to failure, laughable, many other ridiculous things… according to world and culture

yet God guarantees it will successfully carry out plan he has designed and intends – no such assurance for all the other ways

C. good relationships  v.17

neighbors – all

not a case of honor the king, tolerate everyone else; love the brotherhood, put up with the rest of the world… not how Jesus did it, not how he expects us to live either

honor everyone, treat everyone as having value – they do, we all do; no matter how terribly defaced it is, all people bear image of God and have value

whether we like their lifestyle, approve choices, agree with what they support or not, are to be honored as people of value to God

believers – the brotherhood

higher standard for fellow-Christians – are to put their interests and well-being ahead of our own in way that can be observed

remember what Jesus said: John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God

“Fear of God is a combination of affectionate love and deep respect, joined to an awareness of majesty.” Maoz

put it all together – love, respect, awe – is what should motivate / encourage service to God, obedience to his commands

government – the king

no escape clauses – honor the office, honor if this or if not that – also means we should look for those things about the “king” that are worthy of honor and make sure we honor him

btw, we show love/honor/respect for the King we cannot see by properly honoring the king we can see

Sending mixed messages – God’s word commands to submit and yet often most visible/vocal action is resistance of some kind. Encouraged to call Chris/Senator Collins, tell her to vote against…; march in parade against…; stand on sidewalk and protest against… Might ask “what else can we do, issues and problems too big for a few to make much difference”.

One example: Maine statistics: churchangel.com – 1499 churches;  abort73.com/abortion_facts/states/ – 2017: 1,959 abortions

What if, instead of trying to make it harder to take life of unborn, we worked to make it easier to rescue unwanted children? …and then worked to do just that (with or without gov’t help), rescuing babies from death and their mothers from condemnation and misery? If one family from each church in Maine adopted one unwanted child, maybe others  encouraged and helped the other 460 mothers to keep their babies, would that not do good?

Easy or hard, popular or not, God’s will for us is that we use the strength he provides us in submission to his will in order to do good and silence our critics. iow, regardless of circumstances, Living for Jesus.