Listen - I Am Separating Those Who Serve and Those Who Don't

Bible Book: Malachi  3 : 16-18
Subject: Faith, True
Series: Listen Up - God is Speaking - 8 Sermons

Listen - I Am Separating Those Who Serve and Those Who Don't

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Malachi 3:16-18

Nobody likes a fake; we all want The Real Thing. I heard a story about two little boys trying to get enough money to go buy some candy at the store. So one of the little boys went up to a lady on the street and said, "Lady, if you'll give us a quarter, my little brother will imitate a chicken." She laughed and asked, "What will he do? Cackle like a hen?" The little boy almost looked offended. He replied, "Oh, no. He wouldn't do a cheap imitation like that. He'll eat a worm." I like that story. They little fellow was not about to cheapen his act with anything less than The Real Thing. Often, however, it is not the real thing that is actually presented.

Tourists throughout the centuries have visited the famous Acropolis, the ancient religious citadel in Athens. Thousands of sightseers from all over the world have picked up marble chunks as souvenirs. A question arises when one considers how many people have been to the famous Greek hilltop. Why hasn't the supply of pieces been exhausted long ago due to the many tourists taking pieces of the marble home with them? The answer is quite simple. Every few months a truckload of marble fragments from a quarry that is miles away is scattered around the whole Acropolis area. So tourists go home happy with what they think are authentic pieces of ancient history, actually the tourists are carrying away useless, worthless pieces of marble.

No real damage is done by the Greek tourist agencies using a little sleight of hand to keep people from totally destroying the famous sight of the Acropolis. But in most cases, having an imitation rather than the real thing is very costly. At an art auction some time ago, a painting by Van Gogh sold for the high bid of $82.5 million. At the same auction, a Renoir was auctioned for $78.1 million. Imagine what would have happened if the buyer of either of those famous paintings had gotten home and discovered that the work they had purchased was a mere copy! Even if the copy was so like the original that only an expert could tell the difference, the copy would have been worth mere pennies. Failing to have the real thing would have cost the owner millions of dollars.

There is one area in which having the real thing is even more important, and that is in the realm of faith. If you fail in the arena of genuine religion, you could pay for it for eternity. In fact, Jesus once said, “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

In the days of the prophet Malachi, the people were having a problem with genuine religion. Most of the people did not have the real thing so God sent a messenger to warn them of the danger of living in hypocrisy or false security. Is it possible that one of the reasons the church is in retreat today is that many church members do not have the real thing? And, even if some have Christ as their Savior, isn’t it true that many do not live in a way that honors Him? Today we shall look at The Real Thing. We shall view genuine religion from three perspectives.

I. The Dynamic Faith of Genuine Believers 3:16

The word fear, ‘yare’ in the Hebrew, means to worship or to have faith. It means to have reverence toward or godly fear before God. There is a meaning attached to this word for actually fear, terrifying fear, but the word is used in context to mean the showing of honor or deference toward God. In Malachi’s day, few people had real genuine faith in God. There were some, however, who did believe and showed it in their actions. They lived in a time when three basic philosophies were working against them and their faith.

A. Humanism

Humanism is the philosophy which states that man is the highest order that exists. Humanism does not believe there is a God, nor angels, nor demons, nor a devil. Humanism holds that fate alone drives human society and that science drives the universe. Humanism results in many false and erroneous views, but all of them are filled with arrogance, for those who hold these views deny God’s existence and thus His glory and authority.

Genuine believers will not accept humanistic authority. They honor God, fear Him, and give Him the glory due His holy Name! True faith requires resistance to humanistic philosophy.

B. Materialism

Materialism is a philosophy few will admit, but many practice. Materialism is the philosophy which posits that the goal of life is to have as much of this world’s goods as one can obtain. This belief system leads to many offenses. People who practice this philosophy may succumb to cheating, lying, stealing, and many forms of fraud in order to get a little more. James said that the love of money is the root of all evil. He did not say that money is the root of evil, for money is neither good nor bad. It is the love of money that is bad!

True believers use money, but they never let money use them.

They own money, but they never let money own them.

A true believer will never put profit or financial gain about moral and ethical standards.

If you are putting financial decisions above what you know to be right or wrong, you are not living according to true faith, but according to materialism.

The people in Malachi’s day bowed down to materialism. They actually asked, “What does it profit us to serve God?” If they could not see a financial gain from serving God, they would go their own way.

C. Fatalism

Fatalism is the philosophy that we are mere specs of sand swirling about on a terrestrial ball suspended in space. We are nothing, we come from nothing and we are returning to nothing. Fatalism posits that there is no purpose to being alive. The people in Malachi’s day had reached the point to be fatalistic. They failed to realize that God had a plan. They got ahead of God and failed to see that God had not revealed everything to them. True believers trust God “Through it all.”

Anything other than all-out commitment to God will end in disaster. G. S. Bowes comments on the futility of all worldly ambition which is not accompanied by dedication to God. Citing four of the world's most powerful rulers, he writes:"Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery. Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely un-mourned. Julius Caesar, 'dyeing his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,' conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph. Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment."[i]

No wonder Solomon comments the way he does about the bleak future of all who strive to succeed without full devotion to God.

II. The Devoted Fellowship Among Genuine Believers 3:16

A. Their Closeness

They met often and spoke together about the things of God. This shows that true believers want to be together. They desire the fellowship of other likeminded saints. They need the closeness, desire the closeness and reach out for it!

B. Their Commitment

No matter how dark the day, how few their numbers, they never gave up meeting and encouraging one another. These groups of people were committed to God and were committed to each other. The true believer has learned that the world holds out many trinkets, but none of them satisfy. In Greek mythology, King Tantalus was punished in the underworld by being chained in a lake. Its waters reached to his chin but receded whenever he bent down to satisfy his burning thirst. Over his head were branches laden with choice fruit, but they immediately withdrew whenever he reached upward to satisfy his hunger. A symbol of utter frustration, his name is immortalized in the English word "tantalize." So, too, seeking to know God apart from Christ is utterly futile.

C. Their Conversation

The word used to express the speech of these true believers is the word, “dabar” which means to speak encouragement, warning, promises, and to sing. The people spoke to one another in many different but helpful ways.

They spoke of the Lord. They loved to talk about Him and His promises. That is how we are to live today. An old hymn reads:

“I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,

Since I found in Him a friend so kind and true.”[ii]

Yes, true believers love to talk about Jesus! Certainly the people in Malachi’s day did not know about the Savior, since about 400 years would pass before Jesus died at Calvary. However, they knew that salvation centered in faith and sacrifice. Those who truly loved God centered their conversation in the ways, works and wonder of God. I am sure that their conversation centered on ways to reach those who were lost or drifting from the true faith. Surely their conversation covered the burdens and concerns that each of one of them dealt with daily. They shared prayer requests and needs. They encouraged one another and lifted each other up! O, how sweet the conversation among the genuine believers. But, too many of the people in Malachi’s day turned from faith and lived in a false world of multi-religions or no faith at all!

III. The Delightful Future For Genuine Believers 3:16-18

A. God Listens to Them

The Hebrew word, “quashab” in verse 16 means to hearken or listen, but it has a very particular meaning. The word means to dispose the ear or mind to be ready, earnest, and to give serious attention to what is being said. God listens to us as we speak, He does so attentively, loving and seriously! God listened to them. This is truly amazing! God cares for us and listens to our concerns.

During 1977 literally millions of people lined up at museums in different cities across the United States to view the treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen from Egypt. A story appeared shortly after in a Chicago newspaper regarding part of the display which so many people had seen. It seems that Ali Hassan, curator of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, discovered that some of the jewels found in the tomb were not genuine. They were nothing but glass! The question was raised, how could this fact go undetected for so many years? Here's the answer given by Mr. Hassan: "We were blinded by the gold. One just assumes that real gold and real gems go hand-in-hand.” Think about Ali Hassan's explanation: "We were blinded by the gold!"[iii] One just assumes that real gold and real gems go hand-in-hand. Although even the experts were fooled, God never makes that mistake. He can tell the difference between "gold, silver, precious stones and wood, hay and stubble." God listens to us, and He knows our words, thoughts and intents. He knows if we are real! What does God discern about you and me as He listens to our words?

B. God Lists Them

He puts the faithful in a book. He calls us jewels. The word means something prized and sealed away so that no thief can take it away. Of course, we must be the real thing in order to be part of His jewel box.

For many centuries genuine pearls commanded a high price because of their scarcity. Great quantities of oysters had to be examined before a few could be found that contained the coveted treasures. Then suddenly the market became flooded with them. After some investigation the mystery of the abundant supply was revealed. Enterprising individuals had discovered that if a foreign object is lodged in its tender flesh, the oyster will form a glistening pearl around the source of discomfort. Deciding to help nature along, these men artificially induced the process by inserting irritants such as tiny beads and buckshot into the shells. When the pearls had formed, they were carefully harvested. Wealthy patrons became suspicious, however, and insisted that the lustrous jewels be subjected to special tests. Though outwardly they seemed perfect, the x-ray showed their impurity, for they had "false hearts" of lead or glass.

Be sure that God knows the genuine from the false. He can see through to the heart of each man and woman. Our outward expressions, when false, do not fool Him. Are you real? Is your faith true?

C. God Liberates Them

The word which expresses that He will spare the genuine believer, speaks of clemency. It is as if we are released from death row. God takes off the chains and sets us free!

D. God Loves Them

1. Sonship

2. Servanthood

3. Separation

We need to be real for it provides a witness.

We need to be sure that we are genuine believers and that we act like genuine believers. Our walk with God can have a positive or negative effect on our generation. Take the example of Will Houghton as an illustration. Will Houghton was a preacher who became the president of Moody Bible Institute during the 1940s. He played a large role in the conversion of an agnostic who was contemplating suicide. The skeptic was desperate, but he decided that if he could find a minister who lived his faith he would listen to him. So he hired a private detective to watch Houghton. When the investigator's report came back, it revealed that this preacher's life was above reproach; he was for real. The agnostic went to Houghton's church, accepted Christ, and later sent his daughter to Moody Bible Institute.[iv]

We need to be real for it proves our love!

Our genuine faith is not seen so much in what we say as what we do. Take the simple but profound little poem that reads,

"I love you, Mother," said little John;

Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,

And he was off to the garden swing,

Leaving his mother the wood to bring.

"I love you, Mother," said little Nell;

"I love you better than tongue can tell!

Then she teased and pouted half the day,

Till Mother rejoiced when she went to play.

"I love you, Mother," said little Fran;

"Today I'll help you all I can.”

To the cradle then she did softly creep,

And rocked the baby till it fell asleep.

Then stepping softly, she took the broom

And swept the floor and dusted the room;

Busy and happy all day was she,

Helpful and cheerful as she could be.

"I love you, Mother," again they said,

Three little children going to bed.

How do you think that Mother guessed

Which of them really loved her best?[v]

We need to be real for it prepares our eternity!

Conclusion

Have you ever heard the expression, `face the music’? Here's how that phrase came about: "Many years ago, a man wanted to play in the Imperial Orchestra, but he couldn't play a note. Since he was a person of great wealth and influence, however, he demanded to be allowed to join the orchestra so that he could perform in front of the king. The conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra. Even though he couldn't read music, he was given a flute, and when a concert would begin, he would raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers. He went through all the motions of playing, but he never made a sound. This deception went on for two years. Then one day a new conductor took over the Imperial Orchestra. He told the orchestra that he wanted to personally audition all the musicians to see how well they could play. The audition would weed out all those who weren't able to meet his standards, and he would dismiss them from the orchestra. One by one the players performed in his presence. Frantic with worry when it was his turn, the phony flutist pretended to be sick. The doctor who was ordered to examine him, however, declared that he was perfectly well. The conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. Shamefacedly, the man had to confess that he was a fake. That was the day he had to `face the music.' One day you and I will have to face the music. Do you have the real thing?[vi]

Do you have the real thing? God knows!

[i] G.S. Bowes, Our Daily Bread

[ii] Charles Weigle, No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus

[iii] Available from http://www.backtothebible.org/index.php/component/option,com_devotion/qid,12/task,show/resource_no,43/Itemid,75/ Accessed: 4/2/2013

[iv] Available from http://bible.org/illustration/will-houghton Accessed: 4/13/2013

[v] Joy Allison

[vi] Wayne Rice, Hot Illustrations For Youth Talks (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993) pp. 91-92.