“Will a Man Rob God?”
There is a familiar passage of scripture that ministers of all denominations love to preach about... It is found in Malachi chapter 3 verse 8 and it reads like this; The Lord says; “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me.” But you ask; ‘How do we rob you?’” And the Lord replies; “..in tithes and offerings--you are under a curse-- the whole nation of you because you are robbing Me.”
Through the ages, sermons on this passage have caused people to open wide their pocketbooks and give more generously to the church. A good preacher will
be sure to drive home the point that giving back to God is of the utmost importance. It is indeed very important because returning a tithe to God is not only a test of faith or merely dues paid for membership of a church, but tithing is actually a form of worship.
With that being said, let me just inform you that I don’t even have to look at the monthly financial statement and tithe remittance to know that this congregation is in fact robbing God. Now you may be sitting there thinking; I return a faithful tithe and generous offering every single week-- I know he can’t be talking about me! Well, chances are
very good that I am talking about you.....but what’s even worse.... some weeks, I’m talking about me too!
What? We have an Elder in the church who is not being faithful to God in tithes and offerings?! No, I’m not saying that...and by the way, you can stop trying to remember how much you gave last month because most of us are not robbing God of tithes and offerings......praise the Lord that we seem to see the importance in returning a faithful tithe, but the overwhelming majority of us are robbing Him of something just as important~if not more so.... and it is the purpose of this message today to allow God to tell us exactly what we are robbing Him of.
Let me ask you a question; why did you come to church this morning?--why did we assemble here in this sanctuary today? We came to church this morning to
worship and glorify God didn’t we? Well besides returning our tithe, how do we do that? In the 50th Psalm God says that; “those who bring praise as a sacrifice glorify Me and I will show them my salvation.” And the author to the epistle to the Hebrews says in 13:15; “....let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of our lips that confess His name.”
You see brothers and sisters; we, as a congregation are robbing God -not necessarily of tithes and offerings-- but of heart-felt praise, adoration which are vital elements of true spiritual worship...... And by neglecting to give God the Glory and Praise that is due Him, we are also robbing ourselves of a deeper and more meaningful communion with the Lord.
Now I can tell that I’ve totally lost a few of you already this morning; some of you are probably sitting there thinking; what is Dwight talking about? we praise the Lord every time we assemble together in this sanctuary.
Well I’ve got some bad news for you folks; when it comes to praising the Lord in our worship services~ when it comes to expressing our love and adoration for Jesus Christ, we as a whole leave a lot to be desired. I sit up here Sabbath after Sabbath and as I look out upon the congregation, I simply don’t see a group of “joyful” Christians united in heartfelt praise and worship of the Most High God..
I know exactly how you are feeling right about now....I remember a while back, we had a guest speaker who was delivering a genuine, spirit-filled sermon and when he should have been hearing praise the Lord and Amen....he was getting no response at all--it was almost as though the people were there...but their minds and hearts were somewhere far away. He actually stopped in the middle of his sermon and made the comment that we, as a church body, needed to come alive and stop “vegetating” in the pews. Pretty strong words, but also true.
I remember thinking; this guy’s got a lot of nerve coming here and criticizing the way we worship! I left church that day with a sort of bitter taste in my mouth, perhaps you will leave today with much the same defensive attitude though I cerainly hope not. But as I continued to grow in the Lord, I realized that, even though it hurt to hear it, he was exactly right. It is spiritually vital that we revive our first love and be not ashamed of expressing that love to the Lord.
In the 100th Psalm in verses one, two and four we read; “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs......enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name!”
Brothers and sisters, contrary to how we sometimes think, worshipping God is far from being a spectator sport. We need to realize that when we assemble here every week for Divine worship we are, in a sense, approaching the very “gates of heaven,” in other words, what we do here together should by all means be a taste of heaven here on earth.
Be honest and ask yourselves; has my worship experience lately been spiritually full-filling? Do I experience a sense of joy, adoration, and sweet communion with the Lord?--When I come here, do I allow myself to truly feel God’s intimate presence and yet stand in awe of His Glory and Majesty?
Or rather, has your personal worship fallen from a mountain top experience to a mole hill experience--- are you merely going through the motions without ever really feeling like you are a part of a truly divine worship service with Jesus Christ at the very center....do you find yourself leaving here in much the same spiritual condition in which you
Well, if you feel that your worship experience is not spiritually preparing you for heaven.....you are not alone. Some obey the Sabbath commandment for much the same reason as we obey the laws of the land--because they’re expected to and because they fear punishment if they don’t. Many people come to church Sabbath after Sabbath simply because they think that this is what they are supposed to do and that it somehow makes them a better Christian. Does simply showing up for church make us better Christians? Well, I can go to the gym religiously ~every single day to the week, I can buy the most expensive work-out clothes and shoes, hire the best fitness experts in the
world, but until I actually take an active part in what’s going on at the gym, I’ll never benefit from it. In the same way, people come to church and don’t allow themselves to participate and then don’t understand why they are not seeing results and why they’re not getting spiritually stronger. This is simply not the mindset with which we need to be in
when we approach the gates of heaven!
The first thing we need to look at when we think about reforming our worship is “how we approach worship.” The 42nd Psalm has this to say; “ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of JOY and thanksgiving among the festive throng.” Here we picture a jubilant parade of sorts-- a parade of people who are excited about getting to church so they can worship the Almighty and All-Merciful God of the universe!
So, our attitude with which we approach worship, our eagerness to come into this special presence of God, has a great deal to do with the “quality” of our worship once we get here... But sadly, just judging from what time most of us arrive here every Sabbath, God can tell that we are not that terribly eager. Oh, we can get to our jobs, get
our kids to school and even make it to the hairdresser on time, but somehow we just can’t get motivated to be at church on time, that is if we decide to come at all.
Why is that? What are we missing? Aren’t we serving good wholesome spiritual food here? aren’t we teaching the truth of the gospel in our sermons? Sure we are, but......while the food rates four forks the atmosphere is lacking. Lacking what......? Your whole- hearted participation.
Turn with me to the 150th Psalm.......just a little something that might be interesting to you; the book of Psalms as we know it was known to the Hebrews as the “Book of Hallel” or the “Book of Praises.” And the last five psalms including the one that we will read are known as the “Hallelujah Psalms” because they begin and end with Hallelujah.
“1 Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
2 Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.”
Now if we had, as some of us do, friends that were to tell us that their church had all of these things going on that we just read about, some of us would be quick to tell them that they needed to stop going to that church because God is not pleased with that kind of worship! I’ve got news for you folks; God IS pleased with that kind of worship--He is well pleased when we lovingly and enthusiastically praise Him whether it be with musical instruments or with our voices or both!
Again, the bible says; “...let everything that has breath in it praise the Lord!” Jesus also said that if His disciples didn’t praise Him, the rocks would cry out. Sometimes when I leave here on Sabbath, as I pass those boulders out front, I find myself listening closely because I’m expecting them to cry out any moment!
Wow.., Dwight you’re being kind of hard on us aren’t you? Well, granted this may not be remembered as the “feel-good” sermon of the year but we will never be able overcome spiritual handicaps unless God reveals to us the fact that we have them. And if we approach the throne of the Most High without a sacrifice of praise, that is indeed a handicap to our worship and an obstacle between us and God. Friends, if we want to get the most out of our worship and our relationship with the Lord, then we need worship God with everything we have.
In the Gospel of Mark chapter 12:30 Jesus tells us to; “...Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, with all you mind, and with all your strength..” Now doesn’t it only make sense that we should worship Him in the same way?....with all our heart, with all our mind and at least with some of our strength?
But Dwight, you say, different people have different styles of worship and this is our style. It’s true that there are many different styles of worship in the Christian world. In fact, right within our own denomination, we have distinctly different expressions of worship. For instance, if you go to the Smyrna church here in Rocky Mount which by
the way is predominately black, you will find their worship services somewhat different than ours. I don’t know exactly why, and I don’t mean to stereotype people, but black Christians as a whole tend to express their feelings in worship much more freely than white people. They sing all the hymns with everything they have and even participate in the
sermon time with a barrage of amens, Hallelujahs and praise the Lords. And I can guarantee you this; they leave church most every Sabbath spiritually uplifted and knowing that they’ve been in the presence of an awesome God.
Still say that it’s just not your style? Well, you better learn to make it your style or you’ll be the only one in heaven just sitting back and watching while everyone else sings and shouts praises to the Lord because my bible tells me that even the angels in heaven continually praise the Lord with great enthusiasm.
Speaking of how much the Lord loves to be praised; I used to wonder about God sometimes; always demanding and receiving all kinds ofpraise......... once I made the mistake of comparing Him to some people who always want someone to compliment and praise them.
Is God like that? Does the All Powerful God of the universe need the praise and adoration of the likes of you and me to feel like He’s somebody? So, why do you suppose He wants us to worship and praise Him?
God didn’t create us for the purpose of telling Him how great He is all the time, He doesn’t suffer from low self esteem and need us to pick Him up. When we praise God, especially in our worship service, it is not a mere physical or vocal event......but rather it serves much like a “decompression chamber.” You know, when divers
descend to very deep waters and can’t come immediately back to the surface until they spend some time in the decompression chamber where their bodies can become
acclimated to the sudden extreme change in their environment.
When we praise and worship the Lord, we are spiritually conditioning ourselves to come from the depths of the world into the heights of the heavenly realm where we will experience close communion with our Holy God. Jesus said that we need to worship God in spirit and in truth and it’s only until we achieve that spiritual connection with Him that He can come really close to us. Friends, praising the Lord with all our hearts helps us to make that connection. Praise is a very vital part of worship.
And when is a good time to praise the Lord? When everything is going our way? Sure! That’s a great time to really praise God. But how many of us praise the Lord when things aren’t going so good for us? Take Job for example; in a matter of moments he lost all his servants, his livestock which was his wealth, and he even lost all of his children. Did he shake his fist at heaven and blame God? No, the bible says that he fell to the ground and worshipped the Lord and said; “....may the name of the Lord be
What do you suppose Job was really saying in his heart? He was saying; “I don’t know what’s going on Lord but I do know that you are all powerful, you love me, and I am so thankful that I can have comfort in my relationship with you even and especially in these terrible times.”
You see, praise brings faith and faith can bring about amazing miracles from God.
My favorite example of this fact is when Paul and Silas were in the Roman city of Phillipi. They were being followed and agitated by a slave girl who was possessed by a demon and by this demon she could predict the future. She was a fortune teller and made a lot of money for her masters. Well, this girl kept on following Paul and Silas repeating that they were Servants of the Most High God and that they were telling the people the way to be saved. Of course what she was saying was true but she was none the less distracting and irritating them so Paul finally got fed up and turned to the girl and, in the name of Jesus, demanded that the demon leave her.......which it did. From that point on the servant girl couldn’t predict the future, consequently she no longer was able to make a lot of money for her owners.
The owners eventually found out what happened and they formed a mob to demand justice for the money that they had lost because of Paul and Silas. The two
apostles were turned over to the authorities, they were severely beaten and then thrown into prison. They were taken deep into the center section of the prison where the security level was the most intense. Their feet were put into stocks in such a way that they were forced to lay with their raw and bleeding backs against the rough rock floor of the
cell. Their pain was almost unbearable.
And the scriptures tell us that at about midnight, as the two apostles were lying there humiliated, bruised, bleeding in this dark, smelly and seemingly God--forsaken place.....something happened.
Paul and Silas could have easily felt sorry for themselves and cursed God for allowing them to be in this situation....but they didn’t. They began to pray and sing hymns to God--they openly and joyfully praised the Lord right there in the midst of their worst affliction yet!
Sounds of praise and thanksgiving filled the damp dungeon air waking the rest of the prisoners. And you know what happened...as Paul and Silas praised the Lord, the very foundations of that prison began to shake--it was shaken so hard that all the prison doors were dislodged from the cells--even the stocks that held the apostle’s ankles broken open!
Was God there the entire time? Sure He was, but notice that it was when the apostles were praising Him that He revealed His saving power to them.
You see, as they praised Him in prayer and hymns, they were able to focus their hearts and minds on God and His goodness which strengthened their faith and allowed God to work a miracle in their lives.
Psalms 138:1 says; “I will praise you O Lord with ALL my heart.” If we would follow the lead of that faithful psalmist, we would see a tremendous difference in our worship services, in our faith, in our spirituality as a whole, and in the advance of the gospel message throughout the world. May God bless you as you seek His presence.