Friday, April 14, 2017, 8:08 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Malachi 2 (Select vv. ESV).
If You Don’t Listen (vv. 1-3)
“And now, O priests, this command is for you. If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.
Lest we might think that this is Old Testament, and thus it does not apply to the church today, let me share with you that there are many “If” verses in the New Testament, too.
Jesus said that IF we continue in his Word, then we are really his disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. Jesus’ kindness (his grace) is extended to us provided (IF) we continue in his kindness (grace). Otherwise, we can be cut off just like the Jews were cut off who refused to believe in Jesus Christ. [Grace = NOT a free license to continue in sin without guilt. Teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and to live uprightly – Tit. 2:11-14.] We are saved by the gospel IF we hold firmly to the Word preached to us by Jesus Christ and by his NT apostles, i.e. IF we hold to the preaching of The Word of God. IF we don’t, we have believed in vain.
We are reconciled to God by Christ’s death for us on a cross IF we continue in our faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. IF we disown him, he will also disown us. We are God’s house IF we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. We have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. IF the Word of God remains in us, we will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life. And IF, when God calls us to repent of our sins, we don’t listen, and we continue to go our own way, we can expect divine discipline and correction (judgment).
[John 8:31-32; Romans 11:17-24; I Co 15:2; Col 1:21-23; II Tim 2:10-13; Hebrews 3:6, 14-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; I John 2:24-25; Revelation 2-3]
He Stood in Awe (vv. 4-7)
“So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
In contrast to those who do not listen to God and to his Word (the whole counsel of God), who do not take his Word to heart, and who do not give honor to his name, is a picture of those who walk in integrity and in the fear of the Lord. They are those who stand in awe of his name. Boy, is this so lost in today’s modern church. The fear of the Lord is not being taught much at all today in American churches, but this is not just O.T. This is N.T., too.
In every nation, anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. [See: Ac. 10:34-35; 2 Co. 5:6-11; 7:1; Phil. 2:12-13; Heb. 12:28-29; Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 15:4.]
You Have Turned Aside (vv. 8-9)
“But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
Wow! This is SO relevant to today’s church here in America! It does not apply to everyone, mind you, but it does fit with the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians and who are part of the church, the body of Christ, or who are part of the institutional church here in the USA.
So, what is “the way”? Well, it is the way to God the Father through faith in Jesus Christ, who is God the Son (the Son of God). Jesus Christ (God) came to earth, took on human flesh, died on a cross for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, ascended back to heaven, then sent his Holy Spirit to give new life in the Spirit to his followers, to convict of sin, and to empower Christ’s disciples (us) to walk in holiness, godliness and with integrity, etc. Through God-given faith in Jesus Christ we can be saved from slavery (addiction) to sin, be forgiven our sins, be given new lives in Christ to be lived to his righteousness, and have eternal life with God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This IS the gospel of Christ.
But, many have turned aside from the way and have wandered off to follow after the gods of this world, such as entertainment, lust, greed, immorality, sexual deviation, lies, money, power, sensuality, violence, hatred, mockery, slander, and gossip, etc. And, this is not speaking of just the people out in the world, but this is speaking of many who say they are Christians. Their lives are not much different from those who make no claims to faith in Christ at all. And, even many leaders in our churches are leading their people, and all who would listen to them, to believe in a false grace gospel which gives them carte blanche (free rein) to continue in sin without guilt and remorse.
A Foreign God (vv. 10-12)
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah has been faithless, and abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem. For Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob any descendant of the man who does this, who brings an offering to the Lord of hosts!
The vast majority of the church here in America has partnered with (married) the U.S. Government via the 501c3 not-for-profit corporation status for tax exempt purposes, which they did not have to do since they were already tax exempt. Thus, they have turned the church, the body of Christ, into a business of human-making and with the government as head instead of Christ. And, God sees this as an abomination and as profaning his sanctuary, which is the hearts of those he loves, who have believed in him as their Lord and Savior. We, the people of God, are the church, not some institution of men, and especially not with the government as our head, but with Christ ONLY as our head, master and Savior. So, God is calling out to his church to come out of her (the institutional 501c3 church) so that she does not share in the sins of this Babylon, and in her punishment.
Evil Called Good (v. 17)
You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
This is such a picture of what is going on in our world today and within much of the institutional church here in America. So many things are backwards.
Our churches are teaching their people to worship the government by teaching and encouraging them to vow (pledge) their fidelity (allegiance) to our republic with hand over heart, by singing patriotic songs, and by the honoring of our military as heroes and as our “saviors,” who they say are keeping us safe. And, yet they water down the gospel, do not teach that we should vow our fidelity to God, and, in fact, teach that God requires nothing of us at all – no allegiance, no loyalty, no repentance, no obedience and no submission to Christ and to his cross. In fact, they paint God as weak and as a doting grandfather in the sky there to grant our every request, and that he is pleased with us no matter what we do, even if we are enslaved to sin. And then they picture salvation as merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. Yet, salvation = death to sin; alive to God in Christ.
They will also not confront sin within the church, in most cases, but will teach tolerance, “love” that is not love, and will smooth over sin by calling it something less offensive like “I messed up,” or they will give it some kind of psychological diagnosis in order to excuse it away, so as to say the person can’t help himself (or herself). Yet, they will attack and accuse those who preach the Word of Truth, and who do call out sin, warn of judgment, call for repentance, and yet tell of the hope that is ours for the one who is penitent. They call us hatemongers, intolerant, bigoted, and teachers of “works-based salvation,” even though we are teaching the very words of Christ and of his NT apostles. So, their argument is with God, not with his messengers.
So, God is calling out to them to repent of their sins and to turn to him, to walk in his truth, in the fear of the Lord, and to walk in his ways, while there is still time.
Near the Cross / Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.