Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 30 December 18:
1. Malachi 3:1 — “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” The messenger goes out in advance to announce the coming of the King so that the people can prepare for His coming. However, many who say they seek the Lord’s return will be surprised to find themselves subject to God’s judgment. The Good News of the Gospel will not be good news for those who rejected the gifts of salvation through faith in Jesus. “The Lord… will suddenly come to His temple (the true believers are the temple).” Everyone will be surprised by His return, but some will instantly rejoice in Jesus, while others will be overcome with woe.
– Matthew 7:21-23 — “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
– Luke 6:46 — “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
– 1 Corinthians 13:2 — And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
– Romans 16:17-18 — I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
– 1 Timothy 6:4-5 — He is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
– Jude 1:4, 5, 12-21 — “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe…. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage…. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”
– Ezekiel 33:31 — And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain.
– 1 John 3:6 — No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
– Titus 1:16 — They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.
– Luke 12:1 — In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
– 1 Timothy 5:8 — But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
– 2 Peter 2:1-22 — But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; …
– 1 John 2:4-6 — Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
– 2 Timothy 3:1-4:22 — But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people….
2. Malachi 3:2 – “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” No one can stand before the Lord on their own righteousness, which to the Lord is unrighteousness. You must be credited with the righteousness of Jesus who is your salvation. Many people ask, “Are you saved?” But they often don’t understand from what we are saved. We are not saved from our sins. We are saved from the wrath of Almighty God on the Day of Judgment. Only through the righteousness of Christ credited to us can we be saved.
3. Malachi 3:3 – “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.” The quality of our worship is not in the activity but rather the heart behind the activity. Worship is a response to relationship. Religious activity is not a substitute for relationship. The Levites were the worship leaders of their day. God told them that in order to be leaders in worship, they first had to be right in relationship with Him. Someone once said, “Leaders know the way and show the way.” Jesus said, “I am the Way.” Worship leaders must know Jesus and show Jesus, and this does not require better music, a more impressive building, or a better marketing plan. We tend to look for external ways to improve worship, but God says, look internally, at our hearts. The problem is not the worship environment, it is the worship desire-ment. How does the way you currently worship reveal what is really in your heart?
4. Malachi 3:5 – “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” God will swiftly judge people, not just for what they do, but more importantly why they do what they do, their true motivations, what is truly in their hearts, whether or not they truly honored God as Lord of their lives in surrendered, humble, faithful obedience. The Bible does not try to list every sin that will be punished by God on the Day of Judgment but merely gives examples of sins committed directly against Him (like sorcery) and sins committed indirectly against Him and directly against others (like adultery and usury). All sin is a lack of love for God and fear of God, violating the First Commandment and the Great Commandment. Jesus not only said that we would be held accountable for every careless word that came out of our mouths (Matthew 12:36), He went even further and said that we would be found guilty for our sinful thoughts (Matthew 5). Why? Because before we have sinned in word or deed, we have sinned by not loving God as we should in our hearts, desiring only what honors Him. Our thoughts have convicted us before anyone else can. The humble Christian recognizes his total dependence on the grace of God for salvation and righteousness, and pursues righteousness as an act of worship before the Lord, not as an effort to earn salvation (which can only be freely given through Jesus) but through a genuine desire to glorify God and draw closer to Him in love.
5. Malachi 3:7 – “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” We return to the Lord through repentance and subsequent obedience. Again, we didn’t choose God; He chose us (Mark 9:9), and it is He who first loved us (1 John 4:19) that we could love at all. God is the One who loved; we are the ones who left, who created the distance and disunity with Him. He took the initiative in loving; we must take the initiative in returning, though He enables us to do it through the Holy Spirit.
6. Malachi 3:10 – “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” God says to test Him on tithing (giving the first 10% of what you make to Him) and see what happens.
7. Malachi 3:16 — “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.”
– We were saved into a family. God intends for His family to be united, “one” with Him and “one” with each other in love, which is our Greatest Commandment (see John 17). We are to be members of one body where Christ is the Head, stones of the Temple of God, where Christ is the Cornerstone, and members of one Kingdom where Christ is the LORD and KING. Jesus said that our unity and love for each other (as opposed to love of the world) would be the product of our relationship with Him, would be the way we love Him, and would be the proof that we are truly His disciples. We were created for interdependence, not independence or dependence, and God works mightily through our unity (Matthew 18:19-20). When God’s true followers join together in a corporate commitment to obey Him, there is great power. However, unity can only come through conformity to Christ, alignment with his commands. The Cornerstone determines the right order of the stones. We have a saying in the Marine Corps, “Adversity unites.” Malachi describes a situation where, during tribulations, as God prepared to judge a sinful land, God’s true followers were drawn together in fellowship while the rest of society had decided, “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts?” I pray that in the upcoming year, God will inspire you to become more connected to the body of believers, to love your brothers and sisters in Christ as family. Of course, group Bible study is a great way to start ‘speaking with one another’. God’s word reveals that God responds in a special way when His children come together talk about Him and to seek Him:
– Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.
– Matthew 20:30 — And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
– Luke 24:13-15 — That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
8. Malachi 4:1 — “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” Dictionaries define arrogance as “having an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.” More critically, arrogance is undervaluing the holiness and authority of God, not honoring, glorifying, and serving God wholeheartedly. All sin, even the smallest one, is an act of cosmic treason, an attempt to dethrone the Almighty in our lives, if but for just a moment. How could we dare sin if we truly appreciated the holiness of God, the reality of our utter depravity, and the incredible gift of grace He has bestowed upon us through Jesus? Pray that God will help you see sin the way He sees it and that you would be truly amazed by grace.
9. Malachi 4:6 – “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” God fixes nations by fixing families. A godly family is a united family. God is the answer to your family problems. Jesus is the answer to our national problems. There is no other answer.
10. Proverbs 30:4 – “Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” The name is Jesus Christ, and there is no other name by which man must be saved.
11. Proverbs 30:20 – “This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’” People have an amazing ability to make light of their sin or to excuse it. God sees sin for what it is, treason against His Holy, Sovereign LORD-ship, a crime deserving of eternal death. This is why the Gospel is the Good News! But salvation requires a heart of true repentance.
12. Psalm 150:6 – “Praise the Lord!” After many long prayers and songs about all of life’s major ups and downs, successes and failures, blessings and curses, wins and losses, joys and sorrows, after it all, the Book of Psalms concludes with this summation: “Praise the Lord!” In fact, in this very short and final Psalm, the word praise is used 13 times! Can you look back on this year, with all its ups and downs, and joyfully sing God’s praises with a Romans 8:28 perspective? At the close of this year, are you enthusiastic about proclaiming the praises of God to all you know? Recommit today to begin every day of the next year in prayerful study and application of God’s word and see if your joy and praises don’t grow.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 30 Dec 18: “Praise the Lord” today for all that God had done in your life, and commit to a closer walk with God in the upcoming year! (Psalm 150:6) Congratulations to those who read the whole Bible this year and also to those who read more than they did last year! As you read the whole Bible again, watch and see with excitement what God reveals to you in His word that you didn’t see last time.