Summary: If we want to Kick-start our faith, we must learn to rest in God’s righteousness (Part 4 "How to Kick-start Your Faith")
How to kick-start your faith
4:1-2 Rest in His Righteousness.
One of the greatest dilemmas in the Christian faith is to accept that God loves us yet still sends some people to hell. It’s a problem that can paralyse our faith, if we don’t it get sorted out early in our journey. People often overcome this problem in one of three ways. In the first instance some believe that God will neither love us nor act justly toward us. People who take this line say that it is a waste of time placing our hope for the future in God and that it’s unnecessary for us to fear God’s judgement. This was the state of mind in which the Israelites were in at the time of Malachi. Its the line of the skeptic.
In our generation we find people - even Christians - who are prepared to accept that God is loving, so they place their hope in him for the future. Yet they cannot envisage a God who would leave his only Son to die on a cross nor condemn people to hell. Their faith is paralysed, because love without justice is less than perfect love. These people will never experience God’s perfect love - and so their faith is powerless.
The third way people overcome this problem is the exact reverse of that. This position holds that God is so angry with the world that he may just condemn us all to hell. What motivates people with this view towards God is their fear of hell. Again, people who hold to this extreme have a paralysed faith. Their faith is impotent because justice without love and mercy is not true justice.
None of these extremes will reward us with a complete experience of God. Needless to say none of them are biblical either. So if we want to kick-start our faith we need to accept the hard truth that God loves yet still sends people to hell.
A time will come when God will clearly discern between those who accept him and those who reject him. What we need to understand is that God will make this distinction by the horrifying judgements he will inflict upon the one and the unspeakable benefits he will award to the other. If we want to kick-start our faith we need to trust that God will act lovingly and justly toward his creation. We need to rest in his righteousness.
This is the concept that is made so clear for us here in Malachi. The great day described here, will have a two fold effect. Toward the wicked it will be a day of burning and of destruction and justice will be done. To them the Lord issues a warning. Toward the righteous it will be a day of healing and salvation and God’s love will be expressed in its purest form. To these the Lord issues a promise.
I. A WARNING TO THE WICKED (4:1)
a. The day of judgement is certain to come.
One remark I used to hear a lot from my mum as I was growing up was, “Just wait until your father gets home.” I learnt from that experience that the fear of delayed chastisement is a very effective form of motivation. When I heard that I almost always became humble and repentant. Perhaps you’ve shared my experience and know how having to wait for punishment is often worse than the punishment itself. I don’t know about you but one thing that I could count on was that my mother would never forget my misdemeanours and sure enough, when my father got home I would cop it. Once I had been caught, my fate was secure.
And this is the message of the Lord here in Malachi 4:1. He announces that this day of judgment is certain to arrive.
MAL 4:1 "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty.
There is no question about its coming. The message is that the disobedient have been caught out and now they will have to wait for the Father to get home and serve up the punishment.
The certainty with which he announces this day is striking. You see, God can make these kind of absolute statements because he is not making history up as he goes along. The fate of the wicked (and the righteous for that matter), has been prearranged and is guaranteed. God’s punishment is not like that of a lenient parent who will let a child off believing they are acting in love by doing so. More likely they’re simply afraid to discipline. Nor is God’s punishment like that of an out of control parent who believes that a good hiding for even the slightest misdemeanour is appropriate. Sometimes an angry parent will lash out in frustration - God’s justice is not like that.