Category Archives: Miscellaneous Mondays

Concluding Thoughts on Malachi

Yesterday, I ended my preaching series on Malachi. Pastor Matt preached one of the sermons, of which I am grateful.  This is the second time I have preached through Malachi; the first being back in 2011 at a church I pastored then.  I must admit, this time it was much more difficult to preach through this book.  There are many reasons why this would be so, but I want to mention three main reasons:

  1. I have a different preaching style now than I had then.  In 2011, my preaching style42505271_1962338703860138_385242529043316736_n was very factual, but not practical.  Today, I think my preaching is much more applicable, while remaining factual.  At least I hope it is. To preach through Malachi, which is very much a “prophetic” book set in the 5th century B. C. (indictments and condemnations of post-exilic Jews), and to apply that to modern lives was quite the challenge.
  2. I have grown as a pastor. I do not say that in any braggadocio way, but simply as a matter of what the Holy Spirit has done in my soul. I have sought to love and care about the people I pastor in the past, but often it was in a buddy-buddy, friendship way.  That isn’t to say that friendships within the church are wrong or bad for pastors, Norris it to say that I do not have friendships within the church, but rather to say that shepherding a people is different than befriending a people.  Shepherding a flock through such a book as Malachi has been heart-wrenching to the soul knowing that much of what is preached may not be liked, may not be appreciated, may not be welcomed, but absolutely is necessary for the good of the people.
  3. I preached through it at a faster rate. I don’t recall how many weeks I spent in 2011 going through this book, but this time, we only spent 6 weeks in Malachi.  There was a lot to cover and not much time to do so.  I probably wearied many a person with my near hour-long sermons, and for that I apologize. I would venture to say that Malachi would probably be an 8 or 9 week series.  As someone said once, the mind can absorb only as much as the seat can endure. I was well aware of how long my sermons were going to be before ever stepping into the pulpit (in fact, I told Pastor Matt just before service one day that the sermon would be about 5 minutes shorter than the previous week. After looking at the video length it was just over 5 minutes shorter). Every Sunday I stepped into the pulpit fully aware that service would go late, and no matter what people say, they eventually get tired of services ending later than expected.

That being said, preaching through Malachi developed some doctrines for me, personally. That means that I cannot be wishy-washy on certain subjects and toss it up to the fact that I hadn’t had time to study this or that.  It strengthened my convictions on other doctrines as well.  I hope and pray that I was faithful to the text, and I hope and pray that God’s name was magnified.  “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts,” (Malachi 1:11, ESV).

God Hasn’t Called Us to Morality

Ok, maybe it’s a little bit of clickbait, but in a way, it is true. God has not called us to morality, or at the very minimum: moralism. He has called us to faith. He has called us to faith in Christ Jesus the Lord. Morality is a good thing, but it is not the ultimate thing. It is not the goal. There are many people in this world that are moral people. They have high standards for themselves, their families, their job. They are ethical and polite and endearing. But that isn’t what we’ve been called to be.  We are called to be faithful followers of Christ–imitators of God as beloved children.

I have often heard people say that someone they know–who is nice, kind, or moral–must be a Christian (this could also be said of some politician, professional athlete, or rock star).  That assumes that only Christians can be nice, kind, or moral. That is a bad assumption because it is simply not true. I have known atheists who were kinder than many of those who proclaimed to know Christ–more hospitable, more encouraging, more helpful.  The question cannot be simply do they “act” like what we would assume Christians should act like. In reality, what we assume to be Christian qualities are often simply decent human being qualities.

We must look for a commitment to Jesus. When Jesus told us about what the kingdom of heaven was like, He told two very similar parables.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it,” (Matthew 13:44-46, ESV).

In both of these parables, Jesus describes Himself as that which is valuable, but also that which is costly. It is of such great value that no matter the cost, the buyer would gladly pay the price, even if it meant giving up everything for which he’d ever worked. That’s what we have been called to. We have been called to see the treasure, believe it is treasure, give up everything for the treasure, buy the treasure, and treasure the treasure.  Moral people, who are simply decent human beings, do not do these things. Morality may be costly in this day and age, but Christ is much costlier–too costly to treasure.

Matthew told a story in his gospel account that describes many moralists.

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions, (19:16-22, ESV).

Notice that he was a moral man (at least in his own eyes, and the eyes of others who knew him). But when he was told to give up all to follow Jesus, he changed his mind about heaven; morality was all he really wanted.  Jesus didn’t base this rich young ruler’s salvation on his keeping of the law–his morality, but on his unwillingness to faithfully follow Him. Neither should we.

That being said, part of that faithful following is obedience. It’s what Paul described as “obedience of the faith,” (cf. Rom 1:5).  By following Christ, the Holy Spirit has come to live within the believer. In doing so, He has put the law of God upon our hearts to obey and strengthens us to do so. We don’t always listen or utilize the strength that’s for sure, but with that law written on our hearts, the Spirit also brings us an escape route from sin (cf. 1 Cor 10:13).

The difference is that the moral person, without Christ, sees morality as his/her end-goal. The Christian has Christ as their end-goal. They want to be like Him–love as He loves, stand as He stood, give as He gave, live as He lived.  The Christian treasures Christ, not morality. Morals come with Christ as Christ is perfect, and the growing Christian will be ever-growing in morality but only because their focus is on the Righteous One. Morality is simply one of the grand jewels within the treasure. It is simply one of the glints of the pearl of great price.

So then the questions: are you a moralist or a Christian? Do you know a person who is a moralist but assumes they are Christian? Have you assumed a moralist was a Christian? What shall you now do?

Let me know your thoughts below. I love to interact with my readers.