Sermon for 1/20/2002
Does it Pay to Serve God?
A. Have you ever come in contact with someone who says that they went to church for a long time, got involved in the programs of the church, made a decision for Jesus Christ, but through a period of years they have come to believe that it didn’t do much for them, so they no longer attend church or any spiritual activities.
B. Probably will not say that out loud but this is a prevailing attitude among some people. God helps those who help themselves, and God didn’t do much for me. As a matter of fact my life was more difficult when I was serving God, so who needs God, the church, Christianity? It is a burden.
C. What is the use? I have been guilty in my heart of saying at times, "What good does it do to preach the Word? I mean look at the lives of the people! No change, no difference.
D. The very reasons I gave myself for not preaching the Word are the same reasons that I need to preach the Word of God!
E. Skeptics argue, "What are we getting out of it?" The skeptics are serving God as a mere duty and when it becomes too troublesome they abandon God.
F. These people argue that God was obligated to pay them something in return for them showing up and going through the motions. Their expectations were not met so they questioned God’s pay off. Their conclusion was "We’re no better off!"
G. Are we serving out of duty or out of love? If out of duty, if no tangible results, then we abandon God.
H. H.B. London- "Lord, I need You to help me to see satisfactions in service, to enjoy partnership with You, to delight in studying, seeking, and speaking for You; and rescue me from the prison of merely doing my duty. Amen."
I. This shows great insight. This is not just a problem with them; it can also be a problem with us. Our attitude can be this way sometimes. Look at my neighbors, look at my co-workers, look at the people on TV, they don’t go to church nor have any faith, they are godless and look they are better off. They are happy go lucky and they make more money and are rewarded for their immorality. WE probably have not said this but we have thought it from time to time.
J. Really this stems from the problem of self-righteousness. We are better than others are. We are blessed of God. Nobody is as good and as blessed as we are.
K. We don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t chew and we don’t date girls who do. If we do these things we are better than other people. We look down our noses at the ungodly person who is laying the gutter and we say that person is suffering for his sins. I am so much better than that. However, when we do all that we believe that a Christian should and it is clear that we are not better off in this world than others, we have less money, less prestige, less power, low social standing, this is the point where many lose their motivation and maybe even lose their faith.
L. Some people are serving God not to glorify Him, but for their own selfish interests and personal advantage. When their selfish interest and personal advantage are not met to their satisfaction, then they no longer serve God.
A. This brings us to the book of Malachi. If you want to read something sarcastic, read the book of Malachi. It is so sarcastic that it is quite humorous in places.
B. The preaching prophet Malachi ministered not long after the time of Nehemiah. About 400 years before the birth of Christ. Last book of the Old Testament. The temple and the city of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. Nehemiah is no longer there and the people become disappointed with God because He is not making them more prosperous and more powerful than their neighbors. When they compare themselves to their neighbors, they realize that they are poor in many ways. However, they are serving God and doing their duty so why are they poor while the ungodly are rich.
C. People who are just fulfilling an obligation do not bring their best. Israel’s attitude was to do just enough to get by because their hearts were far from God.
D. Israel’s attitude lead to much of this decline.
1. First, they doubt God’s love because they have not been very prosperous.
2. The priests and people do not appreciate proper worship.
a. They bring crippled, worthless animals sacrifices to the temple and expect God to be pleased.
b. They consider the whole worship process a waste of time.
3. The priests have no reverence for God’s law.
4. Men have divorced their wives without cause and have broken their marriage vows.
5. Robbed God by withholding their tithes and offering.
E. These problems have been caused because of this central issue to the book of Malachi. Vs. 14- 15.
F. "What is the use of religion? Does it make any difference to a man’s condition?"
G. Sinful lives appeared to have a firm foundation, and to live in mansions, while righteous ones were living in mud huts. Goodness seemed to spell ruin.
H. This is in the Old Testament. Yes, things were different. However, how many of us have not thought these things and have considered the upside-down state of our world. These ideas are still difficulties in the way of believing in a loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God, and are easy arguments coming from unbelievers to frustrate faith.
I. Malachi makes it clear that to dwell upon these ideas and to have these thoughts drive us to throw off our faith, is not merely folly, it is sin.
Thesis: How do we answer people when they give us these arguments against God? How do we combat these ungodly ideas in our own lives? Does it pay to serve God? Vs. 16 and following helps us to answer these questions.
J. We must rely upon our spiritual relationships with God and with other Christians to combat, to answer.
A. Fear of the Lord.
1. I fear my parents. I no longer fear that I will get a spanking or a whipping. When I was 8, 9, or 10 I feared that, but now I fear them from a different perspective. I do not want to disappoint them, make them ashamed, and dishonor the family name. I do not want my actions and attitudes to get in the way of our relationship. I fear them. I take into account how this will affect our relationship. Even if my actions will lead me to poverty, to ruin, to public humiliation, just to hear my parents’ words, "Son, we are so proud of you."
2. I fear my wife. Not in the sense that I am afraid of her. No, but I do not want to disappoint her, make her ashamed of me, dishonor her through my actions. I do not want my actions and attitudes to get in the way of our relationship. I fear my wife. I take into account how each thing will affect our relationship. Even if my actions will lead us to poverty, to ruin, to public humiliation, just to hear Crystal’s words, "Davon, I am so proud of what you have done. I love you."
3. Above all of these, I fear the Lord. I do fear getting discipline from him, but beyond that I do not want to disappoint him, make him ashamed, and dishonor his Holy Name. I do not want my actions and attitudes to get in the way of our relationship. Everything I do, I need to take into account how this will affect my relationship with the Lord. I fear and respect and honor the Lord. Even if my righteous actions lead me to poverty, to ruin, or to public humiliation, just to hear the Lord’s words, "Well done good and faithful servant" makes all the difference in the world.
4. Jim Harvey- Godly people take God seriously and ungodly people do not take God seriously.
B. Spoke to one another.
** Fellowship is so important. To hang around an ungodly crowd who do not take the Lord seriously will begin to lessen our fear, it will begin to ruin us spiritually.
1. For Encouraging- (Heb 10:25 NIV) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
2. Edifying- Building each other up- (1 Th 5:11 NIV) Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
3. Evangelism to each other- sharing Christ and how good He has been to us- (Jer 20:9 NIV) But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
4. Being around people of faith is so important.
II. The spiritual reception- who does the Lord hear?
A. Does the Lord hear those who just simply do their duty, fulfil their obligations, or does He hear those whose hearts are simple, sincere, and surrendered to Him no matter what the cost.
B. He hears those who have:
1. The right attitude- reverence and respect for God.
2. The right heart- fears the Lord and wants to bring glory to Him.
3. Are looking for the right results- more humility, obedience, and worship.
C. Those who fear Him, yes, but those who are his children.
D. Vs. 17
E. Contrast vs. 14 with this promise, "You have said, ’It is vain to serve God." Verse 14 says it is pointless to serve God. Verse 17 says God will count them his possession and spare them who serve him. What is the difference?
1. The service of a son and the service of a slave.
2. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the youngest came back and served because he was a son, the Eldest served because he felt like he was a slave.
3. There is a service of God that thinks in terms of what it is contributing to the plantation and what the slave owner owes to me. That service is indeed in vain.
4. But there is another kind of service that thinks like a son in the house of his father- here is total security, here is food on the table, here is rest and recreation and love and education and inheritance and the fame and glory of my Father! Why would I want to work anywhere else but here! This is the mindset of the true servant of God.
5. Are you a son, a member of the family, or are you a slave?
F. God hears his children, not slaves or servants who put in their time and expect payment.
III. The spiritual rewards.
A. (1 Cor 15:58 NIV) Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
B. God will hear your words and remember your service. This means that God will never forget the good that we have done in his power and for His glory. It may look forgotten and unrewarded now, but God is just and every lesson faithfully prepared, every courtesy on the highway, every smile on the street, every thank you note, every visit in the hospital, etc, is being written in the book of remembrance and will be repaid to your joy and God’s glory forever when the books are opened. Amen!
C. God will spare those who fear him and live for his glory as a father spares a son who serves him. Vs. 17. The good news is that sons don’t have to be perfect to be spared, they just have to serve like sons instead of slaves. They have to enjoy the mansion instead of the slaves quarters outback.
D. How can a holy God spare a sinful son even if the son has repented and come home? Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. God is just. He will spare sinful sons, precisely because he did not spare his only sinless Son.
E. God promises that one day all things will be made right. The differences between the righteous and the wicked will be cleared up one day. The future judgement holds the key. Vs. 18.
A. Not enough to convince me. What is in it for me now?
B. Malachi 4:1-2.
C. Don’t be so concerned about now. It will all be made right, but which side are you on?