Malachi 2:17-3:6 Faith – Authentic Christianity Part 5
When a trapeze artist learns to swing from the trapeze, they start with a practice bar. This bar is set to the ground. Then the next time, the trapeze is 10 meters above the ground. Safety harnesses are attached to safety lines. They practice flying through the air in the new learned position. Each time, they learn to trust the person on the other side who will catch them. They discover that they can be successful when they trust the person who will catch them in the air. Only when they start to look down and lose concentration, do they fall and have problems.
So it is with faith. To become a Christian takes faith. To follow Jesus takes more faith. To grow and follow Jesus takes even more faith. When you are new to your faith, the trapeze bar is set to the ground. There are many people there to help you when you fall. As you grow in your faith, the line is set higher.
FAITH TRUTH #1: As you grow, God wants you to trust Him more.
He will put you in situations where you have to trust Him.
Where is your trapeze bar tonight?
How high is God setting your goal?
How much faith do you need to have in God for Him to do great things?
Because the great things in life require great trust in God. Some things in life require that you set your trapeze bar higher and trust God to catch you.
But there is a problem. We start to get fearful of the heights that God wants to take us, especially when we stop concentrating on God and His desire for our lives. We start to worry about the circumstances around us – the height and the fact that there is no net, and stop looking to God who is on the other side. We stop believing that God will catch us.
The people in Malachi’s time were getting fearful of the heights that God wanted to take them. They stopped loving God, stopped giving Him their best attention in life, refused to accept God’s influence in their lives, and continued to reject the covenant that God had placed with them. As a result, when time passed, they stopped looking to Him. They started to doubt that God was going to do what He said He would do.
Because they stopped looking to God, they concentrated on their circumstances. As a result, they started to question God.
FAITH TRUTH #2: When we look only to our circumstances, we fall into the trap of doing some ugly stuff to God.
They started to blame God. “Where is the God of justice” (2:17)
You have wearied the LORD with your words;Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and He delights in them,” Or, “Where is the God of justice?”
(Malachi 2:17 NKJV)
The danger is that you start to blame someone for your circumstances.
How does God answer this question?
FAITH TRUTH #3: God will answer first with grace, and then with judgment.
I. God answers the doubt and blame first with grace. (3:1)
1. God handles the injustice by sending His message. (3:1)
The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD;make straight in the desert ahighway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together;for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
(Isaiah 40:3-5 NKJV)
“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, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts.
(Malachi 3:1 NKJV)
God fulfilled this prophecy by sending John the Baptist. But this is also fulfilled when we share the message of Jesus Christ. You can do this when you stop worrying about your circumstances and start to look to God in faith.
Malachi means in Hebrew “my messenger”. It is perhaps no accident that Malachi was the prophet to reveal this fact. But in a sense, everyone of us is God’s messenger. When you live your life by faith, you share the message of Jesus Christ. When you trust God in your circumstances, you are a living example of this message.
2. God is coming Himself. (3:1)
Malachi 3:1 is a reference to the time when Jesus Christ came to Earth. We know from history that John the Baptist pointed the people to Jesus. Jesus is the One whom is identified with the Message of God – salvation for the entire world. God is not unjust. He brought His Son so that you and I could be justified. We can be made new.
By the way, this is one of those two-part fulfillment prophecies that you find quite often in the Old Testament. Malachi 3:1 talks about Jesus as He came the first time. He came to save the lost. He came to bring grace. He came to bring us to God. Malachi 3:2-3 is about Jesus when He returns the second time. The second time Jesus returns, He will judge the world. He will purify His people and then judge the world.
Isaiah 61:1-2 – First Coming
Isaiah 61:2 – Second Coming
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, snd the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God;to comfort all who mourn,
(Isaiah 61:1-2 NKJV)
II. God will judge. (3:3-4)
God will purify His people – the Christians. Then God will judge the world.
The difference between the way that God will judge us and the way that God will judge the world is the difference between a fire that purifies and a forest fire.
A forest fire destroys everything. There is nothing left after a forest fire. Houses get burned up. trees are burned away. Everything is burned up. God comes to judge the world like a forest fire. This is clearly shown in Malachi 3:5, and later in Malachi 4.
And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against sorcerers, against adulterers, against perjurers, against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, and against those who turn away an alien– because they do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts.
(Malachi 3:5 NKJV)
“For behold, the day is coming,burning like an oven,and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the LORD of hosts,”that will leave them neither root nor branch.”
(Malachi 4:1 NKJV)
But to His people, God will be like a refiners fire. This is a big difference. God is a Refiner’s fire, and that makes all the difference. A Refiner’s fire does not destroy indiscriminately like a forest fire. A refiner’s fire does not consume completely like the fire of an incinerator. A Refiner’s fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. God is like a refiner’s fire.
It does say FIRE. And therefore purity and holiness will always be a dreadful thing. There will always be a proper “fear and trembling” in the process of becoming pure. We learn it from the time we are little children: never play with fire! And it’s a good lesson! Therefore, Christ
ianity is never a play thing. And the passion for purity is never flippant. He is like fire and fire is serious. You don’t fool around with it.
But it does say, he is like a REFINER’S fire. And therefore this is not merely a word of warning, but a tremendous word of hope. The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction.
FAITH TRUTH #4: God does not change. (3:6) But He wants us to change. He puts me in refining fire situations because He wants me to come to Him in faith.
“For I am the LORD, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
(Malachi 3:6 NKJV)
So when the Lord comes, some are refined and some are consumed. How can we be sure to experience the fire of God as refining and not consuming?
God wants me to trust Him in faith. Sometimes, the circumstances will seem like a fire that will consume, a fire that will burn you up. But God shows us that this fire will make you a better Christian.
I am learning this in my own life. God is changing me. God has changed me. And I know that He is using these circumstances to change me. These circumstances that are coming will not burn me up. God will change me in this process. I suspect that it has to do with frustration, patience, and faith.
So I am learning this in my own life. Remember that I told you that there is this fearfulness of what God will do in my life. I get scared sometime of the heights that God wants to take me. When I came to Germany, it did not feel frightening. I just simply trusted God. As a matter of fact, it was very clear. But the circumstances were easier. I did not own much. I did not have much invested where I was. I knew the people, but I did not own the house. I was able to get up and move. There was a big change in my life, but there was a net.
Now, I had some real fear. The risk is higher because the bar has been set higher. This is not just about a ministry bar. The ministry bar would be set higher – it is possible that we will start a new church. This is about a life-change bar. Building a family, adopting children, and possibly starting something completely new. Yes, there is a net. There is a house, and there is a place where my family lives. But the bar is set much higher. I have to trust God. He is on the other side of the bar waiting to catch me.
So let us not look to our circumstances and blame what we think God is not doing – things we think God should be doing. Instead, we should look to God in faith and ask Him to show us what He is doing and how He wants us to join Him. So get up on the trapeze bar. Follow God in faith.