Make the Most of Your Worship
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, let me invite you to open with me to the Book of Malachi; and if it’s been a little while since you’ve been in Malachi, feel free to use that table of contents. Maybe the easiest way to find it is go to the New Testament, Book of Matthew, first book of the New Testament, and take a hard left; and you’ll find Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi 1, and while you’re turning there, let me encourage you to pull out those notes that are in your worship guide.
As we kick off picture of the new year today, I want us to think about where God brought us at the end of last year, as we began to talk about how we exist to glorify Christ by making disciples of all nations; and we have talked about how, if we’re going to do anything well, we want to be a church, a faith family that worships well, worships in a way that brings great glory to Christ, that does disciple making; and we’ve seen in Scripture that small groups, the precedent that Christ in the New Testament church set. How to share life together and make disciples, and we’re not just going to do it here. We’re going to do it in all nations; and over the last year, we have seen and experienced the thrill of being involved in what God is doing in other contexts around the world.
Which, by the way, on a side note, two Sundays from today, we’re going to have – the plan is to have all the dates and trips and all the information that we can give you on trips for this next year as you think and pray through how you or you and your family are going to be involved in short-term mission. So that’s coming two weeks from today, but we’ve seen this picture of gathering together for worship and growing together in small groups. They’re making disciples and going together to all nations; and so what I want us to do over these first three weeks of the year is camp out on each of those. What does worship look like that glorifies Christ? How do we make our relationships count for the glory of Christ and disciple making, and how do we do that – make our lives count in all the world?
And then, from that point, with that foundation, I want us to dive into all kinds of things in the coming year. I want us to look at what Scripture has to teach us about why we believe what we believe. I want us to look at what Scripture has to teach about the family. What it means to be a Biblical man and a Biblical woman and a Biblical husband, a Biblical wife, Biblical parents, Biblical children. What does that look like? How does this disciple making thing look in the home? I want us to dive into suffering, and how God uses the most difficult times in our lives as a part of His purpose in the world. I want us to look at social justice this year. I want us to dive into the issues that are closest to the heart of God in our world; and think about what it would be like, what it would mean for us to be a church that is theologically conservative, but culturally liberal, deeply caring about the things that are most important to God.
So that’s where we’re headed in the year; but these first three weeks are huge in setting that foundation and, especially, tonight; because I want us to consider the picture of worship and how worship – and we’ve talked about this at Brook Hills – worship fuels the mission of Christ. Worship drives us. Worship that glorifies Christ.
I want to bring in friend, A. W. Tozer, who I quote from often; and I want you to listen to what he said. Now, he said this a little over 50 years ago; but I think these words are almost, in a sense, prophetic how applicable they are today. He said this: “In my opinion, the greatest single need of the moment is that light-hearted, superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up with His train filling the temple.” Listen to what he said. He said, “The holy art of worship seems to have passed away like the Shekinah glory from the tabernacle; and, as a result, we are left to our own devices and forced to make up the lack of spontaneous worship by bringing in countless cheap and tawdry activities to hold the attention of the church people.”
I think there is a great need for us to revisit what it means to gaze on the greatness of God in worship, and to be captivated by His splendor in worship, and to long for Him, to have our souls cry out for Him. The question we need to come face to face with in the church, in contemporary Christianity, in Brook Hills Christianity… We’ve got to ask ourselves the question: Do we love the glory of God? Do we cry out for God in all of His glory in such a way that we don’t need cheap and tawdry activities to hold our attention in worship. His glory is sufficient to hold all of our attention.
And so I want us to look at a picture of worship in the Old Testament. It’s very interesting. This book, Malachi, this is Malachi, a prophet, who’s speaking to God’s people around 450 B.C., give or take a few years; and from the very beginning, he speaks on behalf of God to the priests.
The way worship was set up in the Old Testament was you had priests who served, the Levites who served at the temple; and people would bring their sacrifices to the temple – these animals. They were bringing sacrifices; and they would give them to the priests; and the priests would carry out this picture of sacrifice to cover over their sins or a thank offering, all kinds of different types of sacrifices. And so they were a people engrossed in worship; and God comes and gives His commentary on their worship; and it is strong words from the mouth of God.
So I want us to start in Malachi 1:6. We’re going to read through the end of the chapter. Just imagine with me as you hear these words, just imagine being a priest whose job it is to lead in the worship of God; and God comes to you and says this. Verse 6:
“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. But you ask, “‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’” ‘You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, “‘How have we defiled you?’” ‘By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty.”
“‘Now implore God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?’—says the Lord Almighty. ‘Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘But you profane it by saying of the Lord’s table, “‘It is defiled,’” and of its food, “‘It is contemptible.’” And you say, “‘What a burden!’” and you sniff at it contemptuously,’ says the Lord Almighty.
“‘When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?’ says the Lord. ‘Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations’” (Mal 1:6-14).
Those are strong words from God to His people. Imagine hearing those words. It is your job to lead the people in worship; and God says, “You are showing contempt for my name; and it would be better if you closed the doors and stopped lighting useless fires on my altar.”
Ladies and gentlemen, is it possible to gather together for worship in a way that insults the One you claim to worship? Is it really possible for God’s people to gather together and insult Him with their worship? It absolutely is possible. In fact, I would say, in many settings, it is probable; and if that is even a possibility, then it should cause every single follower of Christ in this room, every single person in this faith family to rise up and listen to the kind of worship that God says it’d be better off if you stayed at home and closed the door, not even come. How – what kind of worship does God say, “You might as well not even do it at all.”
The People Who Didn’t Make Worship Count…
I want you to see three characteristics of worship that doesn’t count based on the picture here in Malachi 1.
They Trivialized the Greatness of God
Worship that God says you should close the doors and stay home, number one, trivializes the greatness of God. This is what the people of God had done in the day of Malachi. They were trivializing the greatness of God. I want you to see, from the very beginning, the emphasis on God and His greatness in this passage. From the very beginning, He starts talking about His name and the greatness of His name and revering His name. In fact, I want to take you on a little tour; because there are 10 different times in this short book of Malachi that God talks about His name; and I want to invite you just to circle each of them. I want to show you, and some of them—a lot of them—are in this passage.
Look in verse 6, end of verse 6, close to the end of verse 6, it says, “It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name” (Mal. 1:6). Circle it there. There’s the first time. “But you ask,” same verse, “How have we shown contempt for your name” (Mal. 1:6). Circle it there. Then you get over to verse 11. It’s three times in this verse, “My name.” Circle it. “‘My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:11). You get to the end of verse 14, right at the end of the chapter. God says, “‘I am a great king,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations’” (Mal. 1:14).
Then you get to Chapter 2. Look at verse 2. “‘ If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings’” (Mal. 2:2). Then look over in verse 5. “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my” (Mal. 2:5)—what? “My name.”
Then you get to Chapter 3, let me show you two more. Malachi 3:16, “Those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” Circle it there. Then Malachi 4:2, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.”
All throughout the book of Malachi, it is very clear. God is apparently concerned about the glory and reverence of His name; and from the very beginning of this passage we just read, what we realize is the priests were not concerned about His name. God says to them, “You show contempt for my name.” And this is bold. It’s like this dialogue between the people saying, “Well, how have we done that? We would never defile your name. We would never say that your name is contemptible,” and God says, “You do it with your life.” Verse 13, “You walk by the altar that is dedicated to my worship, and you sniff at it contemptuously, with disdain. You are bored with it.” They had trivialized the greatness of God’s name.
But don’t miss it. This is what is so convicting, so dangerous about Malachi 1. They were so engrossed in their religion and their religious activity, they didn’t realize how they were defiling the name of God. This is a strong warning when you fast-forward to our culture today in the Biblical South. Is it possible to be so engrossed in religious activity in Birmingham, Alabama, that we have no clue that, in our religion, we are actually defiling the name of God?
That we have just enough religion to cover up for the fact that our lives are actually full of idols that are represented all throughout Birmingham; and we bow at their feet; and then we throw God a coin Sunday after Sunday like He is a beggar on the side of the road with a tin cup needing a little something from us while we go on living our lives in contempt of His name. This is the accusation.
When you see in Malachi 1 the picture of God, it heightens the gravity of that accusation. Let me show you four characteristics of God here. First, I want you to see that God is the author of our lives. From the very beginning of verse 6, He starts talking about this comparison between a father and a son and a master and a servant.
We’ve seen, here at Brook Hills, this picture of God as Father; and what that means – I don’t know if you remember, when we were talking about prayer in Luke 11 last year; and we saw this picture of God as Father. Whenever we see this picture of God as Father, it’s really a twofold picture. This is not in your notes. This is no extra charge. God as Father, really gives us a picture of two things: reverence and relationship.
Reverence and relationship. For Him to be our Father means that we revere Him, and we have a unique relationship with him. That first part, we revere Him. We all know that a good father is revered and respected by his children. When I think about my own dad and the respect I had for him, that he was this source of wisdom and strength; and he was the one who provided for me; and all it took was one sharp look from my dad; and, immediately, I was perking up and doing whatever I had not been doing before that I needed to be doing.
How much more so, the Father who created you, who gives you life, who brought you into the world. Ladies and gentlemen, I remind you that the very breath you breathe right now, you breathe because God the Father gives it to you. The very fact that your heart is beating where you are sitting, it is beating because He is fueling it with its rhythm and power. He is the author of our lives, and every good thing we have comes from Him. Every good thing you have did not come from your hard work and your talents and your skills and your expertise in what you bring to the table, every single good thing you have comes from Him. Even those in this room who hate God, every single good thing you have comes from the very one you hate. He is the author of our lives, and He holds our lives in His hand.
Not just reverence, but relationships. This picture of Father, He is the author of our lives; and, second – this is where it’s an amazing picture – He is the lover of our souls. He is the one who cares for us. He is the one who desires good for us. He’s a lover of our souls. This picture of Father and Son, to even imagine that kind of relationship with God. I know that over the last 10, 11 months of my own life, for the first time I’ve realized what it means to really love a child. To look in the faces of my two precious boys, most of the time precious boys, and to feel a love that I had only heard about before and now I realize; and to imagine, ladies and gentlemen, that the God of the universe has chosen to call us His sons and His daughters. That He is our Father, author of our lives and lover of our souls.
And then you get in this picture of master and servant. He is the Master or the Lord of all creation. He is the Master over all things, the Lord over all things. This is the picture the prophets continually bring us back to in the Old Testament. This picture of the supreme Lordship and sovereignty of God.
The fact that every single square foot in Birmingham belongs to Him. All the mountains, every mountain, every hill, every tree, every blade of grass. The wind belongs to Him. Every bird that flies through the air does it at His bidding. He is Lord of all creation.
It is Isaiah 40:25-26, “‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One… He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name.” Think about that.
The sun in the sky is a modest star in our galaxy burning at a cool 6,000 degrees Centigrade, and traveling at a smooth 150 miles per second. It is one of a hundred billion such stars in our galaxy. That is not to mention the millions of other galaxies that are beyond our galaxy that the best telescopes we have can see. That equates to a hundred billion million stars. Scientists have to clue how many stars there are. More than we could ever even begin to fathom; and out of the hundred billion million starts, our God brings them out one by one; and He calls them each by name.
Bob and Mary and Z1495. The God we worship in this room calls the stars by name!
He is the Lord of all creation, and He is the King of all glory. The phrase, or the title that is used for God here in verse 6 – and it is used for God throughout this passage, over and over and over again, and throughout this book – it’s a popular title among the prophets. There it is in verse 6, “‘If I am a master, where is the respect due me?’ says”– now, underline it with me here – “the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:6). Because I want you to see how this is emphasized. “The Lord Almighty” there in the middle of verse 6.
And then you get down to end of verse 8. “‘Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the” (Mal. 1:8)—who? This is the audience participation part of our program. “Says the Lord Almighty.” There we go, come on. Come with me here. All right, verse 9, “‘…will he accept you?’—says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:9). All right, you’re getting there. Verse 10, about midway through, “‘I am not pleased with you,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:10). Even if you’re not following along, just guess Lord Almighty. You’ll get it every time. End of verse 11, “‘…my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:11). End of verse 13, “‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:13). And the end of verse 14, “‘For I am a great King,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:14). God is making a point here over and over and over again.
Now, some of you might have in your translations “Lord of Hosts.” Maybe that’s why you were thrown off a little bit; because this Lord Almighty, Lord of Hosts, the picture is that He is the reigning King; and this picture of Hosts, the picture in the Old Testament, you can hosts of armies or hosts of angels. This picture of the fact that He is King, reigning in glory over hosts of armies and angels. He is the Lord Almighty, and don’t miss it, the priests and the people of God were bringing Him cheap and mangy sacrifices to that God. That’s such a low view of God.
Same view of God that I fear many times we begin to have. This picture of God standing on a corner with a tin cup looking for us to give Him something every once in a while. After all, that’s better than what other people give, right? Ladies and gentlemen, God is not poor. In fact, He does not even need our worship. At this very moment there are innumerable creatures who’s beauty we cannot even begin to fathom; and they are all right now surrounding His throne; and they are constantly serving Him; and they are constantly singing praises to Him. Creatures with such beauty that if one of them were here, we would be struck down by their beauty. He does not need our worship. That’s what He’s saying to them in verse 10. “Shut the temple doors. I need nothing from your hands.”
Tozer, I mentioned earlier, which, by the way as a side note, one of my favorite books on the greatness of God is a short book by A. W. Tozer on… It’s called The Knowledge of the Holy—in incredible book. He said this: “If every man on earth became blind, it would not diminish the glory of the sun and the moon and the stars; and if every person on earth turned atheist, it would not diminish the glory of God.” God needs nothing from us. Acts 17:25, “He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything.” Psalm 50, listen to what He says there. I love this. “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Ps. 50:9-12).
Ladies and gentlemen, God help us to realize that your greatness is not dependent on our worship. That you are all glorious over all things, and worship is the greatest privilege of all. That you and I have the opportunity to engage God in His grandeur and His splendor; and, yet, we have this dangerous temptation to grow nonchalant with this God. Casual with this God. Church at Brook Hills, followers of Christ all around this room, fall on your faces in view of the greatness of God; and do not trivialize His glory; and it’s possible to worship in a way that trivializes the greatness of God; and we must – we must avoid that.
They Disregarded the Holiness of God
Second, they trivialized the greatness of God; and they disregarded the holiness of God. They disregarded His holiness. This is bold. The questions that they were asking God. “How have we done this? How have we defiled you?” It’s almost like they were daring God to spell out their sins before them, and God does it.
He says, “All of these offerings, these sacrifices,” – now this was the Old Testament picture of worship. It’s very different when you get to the New Testament, and it’s preparing the way for this picture of Christ in the New Testament. You would bring an offering, sacrifice there to cover for, atone for your sins; and this was the way that God had told them to worship. This was the way that God would display His holiness through His people. I want you to see how they disregarded the holiness in a few different ways.
First, they had traded in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world. They traded in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world. Now, I want us to look at these three and just think about the frightening parallels there are between this Old Testament picture of worship and our picture of contemporary worship today. They traded in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world.
Hold your place here in Malachi 1, and go back with me to Leviticus. It’s another place we don’t hang out a lot. Leviticus, third book in the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. Go to Leviticus 22. While you’re turning there, just a little background here. We got to realize that whenever we are reading the prophets in the Old Testament, they are not coming out with new information. What they’re doing is giving a commentary on how God's Word is being obeyed or disobeyed in that culture in that day; and God's Word was summed up in these books of the law—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; and so the foundations for what we read in the Prophets are way back here in the first five books of the Old Testament, Leviticus 22, in particular, when it comes to this passage.
God is speaking to Moses and to His people; and He is giving them a picture of what this worship should look like; and listen to what He says. Verse 1, Leviticus 22: “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons’” – Aaron and his sons were the priests – “to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name. I am the Lord” (Lev. 22:1-2). Did you catch that? Levites, the priests, “They don’t need to profane my holy name; and they can honor my holy name by treating with respect the sacred offerings that the consecrate to me.”
Then He begins to detail how that looks; and you get over to verse 17, and listen to what God says. See if it sounds familiar. “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons’” – in other words, the priests –
…and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘If any of you—either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel —presents a gift for a burnt offering to the Lord, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the Lord to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. Do not offer to the Lord the blind, the injured or the maimed… (Lev. 22:17-22)
Does this sound familiar? – “…or anything with warts or festering or running sores” (Lev. 22:22). It gets a little graphic there. “Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the Lord by fire” (Lev. 22:22). Why not? You get to the end, verse 31. God says, “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord. Do not profane my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the Lord, who makes you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord” (Lev. 22:31-33). “This is how you display my holiness. You don’t display my holiness by coming to cover over your sin or to give an offering and bringing something that is impure. You display my holiness by bringing that which is pure, without defect.”
Now, the problem was, Malachi’s day, let’s say you were the head of a household; and you had some animals who were your livelihood; and you knew you were supposed to go and offer the best as a sacrifice there at the temple; but you began to think about it. You thought, “You know, I’ve got this animal over here that is blind or that is injured; and I can get a lot more money for this good animal over here. There’s got to be a way to be able to worship and make money; and so I’m going to hold onto the good animal; and I’ll take this other animal over here.” And so they would bring the blind or the injured, and the priests would accept them. They knew that that was not what the Word of God said; but they looked at the wisdom of the world over here and how this would work better for families; and they said, “We’ll do it that way then.” They traded in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world.
Now, think with me. I know that our picture of worship is radically different than what’s going on here in Malachi 1; but, at the same time, I think we’ve got to ask ourselves the question: Do you think it’s possible in contemporary worship for the church to trade in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world?
I believe it is happening across churches in our culture; and I hesitate at this point; and I’ve wrestled with even how to address this; because I do not want to appear unduly critical; but we’ve got the same warning over in 2 Timothy 4 where God says, “The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
God said it. “There will be day when my people will want the wisdom of the world more than they want the Word of God.” And if you look at the contemporary landscape of fastest-growing churches and the best-selling authors and most-watched TV preachers, you will find much wisdom from the world, much practical advice from the world, and very little of the Word of God.
If anything, it’s used to support our own ideas. It’s used as a tool to help us promote the wisdom of the world; and worship’s starting point is not with the wisdom of the world. It is with the Word of the living God; and I want to remind you, simply because I see you as a faith family God has entrusted to me. Watch out for Christian leaders who speak and claim to lead the people of God and claim to represent God before His people; and the Word of God is nowhere near their mouths. If you want your best life now, then engage the Word of God now; and see the greatest of God now; and fear the wrath of God now; and receive the mercy of God now.
This is where we will engage God in worship; and I want to urge you to turn aside from that teaching which tickles our ears, which we want to hear, which entertains us and makes us feel good. I guarantee you, God knows what makes us feel good; and He’s given us His Word; so let’s cling to it; and let’s do everything we can to avoid trading in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world.
I don’t even feel right in saying that; because I know I am nowhere close to being worthy to stand before you tonight and represent this God, the Lord of all Creation and the King of all Glory. Just know that that brings me to my face all week long. Malachi 1, God speaking to the priests, is not a fun text to soak in all week long when you’re supposed to stand up and represent this God. Pray, pray that God will keep me as your pastor; and we’ll raise up church leaders all across this country who give the Word of God and nothing else; who find great authority in God's Word. They traded in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world.
Second, they traded in the purity of God for the pleasures of this world. They traded in the purity of God for the pleasures of this world. This was the sacrifice that would cover over your sins. Therefore, it would be clean; and God would accept a clean offering. This is whole picture, setting the stage for Jesus to come, a Lamb without blemish. Jesus to come, perfect, sinless. The only way He can atone for, cover over our sins is if He is a perfect, spotless lamb. This is the scene that’s going to set the stage for that.
But you’ve got a people over here that realize if we give unclean offerings, if we give injured offerings, if we give these types of offerings, then we can make money in the world over here; and the priests had given in to that picture. After all, if we don’t take their mangy offerings, maybe they won’t offer anything at all. They’re going to make money with these things. Let’s just take something instead of nothing.
Is it possible for those who lead worship in the church to lower the standards of purity and order to enable more people to worship? Is it possible in contemporary Christianity, contemporary worship to lower the standards of purity in order to draw more people? I’m convinced that we can draw a crowd with anything in our culture; and church growth and church success in the magazines I get sent to me and the emails I get sent to me about how to grow a church all talk about how to get more people, more people, more people; and we define success in God’s blessing on a church if more people are coming in. Ladies and gentlemen, I remind you, God is more interested in the sanctity of His people than in the size of our church.
He is interested in your holiness, in my holiness, in your purity, in my purity; and you and I have been conformed to the image of Christ and displaying His holiness in the way we live our lives in this culture. They had traded in the purity of God for the pleasures of this world.
And, third, they traded in the acceptance of God for the applause of the world. You get to the very end of verse 8, God says, “Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you” (Mal. 1:8)? What an indictment. God says there is no way you would ever give an offering to the ruler over you that looks like these things. He would be insulted. You wouldn’t even think of it; and, yet, you give these things to God.
And the picture is of a people who were more devoted to pleasing their governor than they were to pleasing their God. More willing to give their best to the governor instead of giving their best to God. “We’ll give our best to the governor, and we’ll leave the leftovers for God.”
Now, before we look at the speck of sawdust in their eye, let’s look at the plank in our own. Researchers have shown and continue to show over and over and over again – look at these church growth things, that about in the church – about 20% of the people do 80 percent of the work; and 80% of the people do little to nothing in the church besides showing up. In an average church, that is the picture; and even if those statistics aren’t exact, they’re close. Get the picture. The majority, overwhelming majority of people in the church who are spectators and consumers.
Now, imagine with me, going along with this picture in verse 8, imagine if you, for example, gave to your employer what you were giving to God. Imagine going to your employer to turn in a sheet that was a report on all that you’ve done in the company and what you’ve produced over the last year; and you hand him your sheet; and he looks at it; and it’s blank; and he looks back at you and says, “Does this mean you’ve done nothing over the last year?” And you look back at him and say, “On the contrary, I’ve showed up at the factory every single day this last year.” And he says to you, “Well, what are your goals? What are your plans for production in the next year, because this has obviously got to change. There’s nothing on here. What are your plans and your goals?” And you say, “Well, that’s on the other side of the page.” And he turns it over; and that side of the page is blank, too; and he says, “You have no goals or plans or desires for how you’re going to work and produce in this company?” And you look back at him and say, “No, but I promise to be here every single day and let you know I’m here.”
Now, there is no chance that any one of us would have a job if that is what we gave to our employer; and I can’t help but to think that God is saying, “Why are you giving me what you would never give to your employer? Why are you devoting the best in your life to the things of this world instead of to that which is acceptable in my sight?”
And you know where I think this is most dangerous? I think it’s most dangerous in the way we are raising our children. We are a people that are so busy and immersed in the activities of this world that we wonder where we’ve got time to give ourselves to God and His church; and it carries over into our children; and I know I’m just on the beginning of this journey; and I know I’ve got a lot to learn; but this picture in our culture of immersing our children in activity after activity after activity and running all over town from soccer to gymnastics to dance to football to this or that activity; and we tell them, “You need to get a good education; and you need to be athletic; and you need to spend hours practicing. You need to spend hours on your homework; and you need to get ready; because college is coming soon; and you need to get a good college degree; and you need to get a good job; and you need to have a good family; and you need to make a good living; and so you need to do all these things. You need to be successful at all these things.”
And it’s not that these things are bad in and of themselves. It’s not necessarily what they’re getting. It’s what they’re not getting; because along the way, we’re not teaching them to serve God. We’re teaching them to give their best to the things of this world and give the leftovers to God. We’re teaching them to be just like us.
Dads who would much rather teach sons how to swing a club or swing a bat than how to study the Bible, and moms who would much rather teach their daughters about makeup than what it means to be a Biblical woman and to have the inner beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. You say, “Well, I teach them about God. I drop them off at the youth building, and I send them to the children’s rooms over here.” Moms and Dads, I want to remind you tonight, God has not called the youth minister or the children’s minister to disciple your kids. He has called – not called – He has commanded you to disciple your kids, to teach them and to show them what it means to give God and His church the best, instead of giving the world and its success the best. If you do well, we will be proud of you regardless of whether or not you know how to study the Bible.
God help us not to raise up a generation of children and students who live for the applause of this world and turn a deaf ear to the acceptance of God and one day stand before God to give an account for their lives; and they hold all the things in their hands that you or I said are important; and all of a sudden, they all burn up in judgment; and they’re left as beggars before God because they listened to all the things we told them were most important. God help us to worship in a way that says my life, my family, my kids, we are devoting our best to God and to His church. This is worship, and they had traded in the acceptance of God for the applause of the world. They disregarded the holiness of God. I told you, you don’t want to spend long in Malachi 1:6-14. It is thick.
They Missed out on the Purpose of God
Finally, they trivialize the greatness of God. They disregarded the holiness of God. And, thirdly, they missed out on the purpose of God. If you get to verse 10 – and that’s when God says, “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you…and I will accept no offering from your hands” (Mal. 1:10). And it’s almost just an abrupt change when you get to verse 11. It’s really the mega-verse in this whole chapter; and after He says, “I’m not going to accept your offering. No, none of your offerings I’ll accept from your hands.” He says, “‘My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Mal. 1:11).
Did you catch that? God just told the priests of Israel, the priests of His people, whose job it was to lead in worship, “If you shut your doors and I accept no offerings from your hands, I’m still going to make my name known as great throughout the nations.” In other words, “My purpose will be accomplished with or without you guys.”
This is where we come back around to this privilege. When we talk about global mission and global disciple making, making disciples of all nations, we talk about missions… We see it all over Scripture. The danger, now, I think this is a danger at Brook Hills… The danger is we can begin to view God as sitting up on His throne, wringing His hands, looking down at the world, saying, “I want to impact the world and affect the world, and I just need some people to help me. Who will help me?” That is not what God is doing.
God is working to make His global glory known throughout the earth; and if the church at Brook Hills were to absolve tomorrow and all of our missions be thrown to the wind, that would not affect God’s plan to make His glory known in all nations in any way. He is still going to do it.
We talk about the Bedouin people. Five million of them, 40 believers out of five million of them, most of whom have no knowledge, haven’t even heard the name of Jesus. Do not think that the Bedouin hearing the gospel is dependent on the church at Brook Hills. Don’t think for a second that is true, because God is going to make His gospel known among the Bedouin; and He’s going to do it through an obedient people.
And if you and I are that people, praise God. We will experience the joy and the beauty of being a part of God’s global purpose; but if we refuse that purpose and choose, instead, to worship the idols and comforts of Birmingham, then He will still get the job done; and we will miss out. Bedouin will hear the gospel. They just won’t hear it from us.
God says, “From the rising to the setting of the sun all across this globe, my name is going to be great.” And He’s bringing these priests to a point where they’ve got to realize, first, the greatness of God compels us to give everything to Him. Not to give mangy, half-hearted sacrifices. They are not worthy of worship—use in worship. God says, “I don’t want them.”
And not only the greatness of God compelling us to give everything; but the greatest of God commissioning us to go everywhere; and this was why I’m praying that God will not make us a church that’s passionate about missions. The goal is not to be passionate about missions. The goal when I’m praying for this church, is that we will be a people that are passionate about God and long for God and love the glory of God; and when that is the case, we will give ourselves to His mission; because we will believe that it is worth it to give our lives to make that glory known across this planet.
They trivialized the greatness of God and disregarded His holiness, and they were missing out completely on His purpose. Now, with that picture in Malachi 1, I’m confident there are people across this room who are sitting here thinking, “I don’t even know how I can begin to worship that. I want to worship. I want to bring glory to God; but I – I have struggled with this sin; and I struggle with purity, even since I’ve sat in here tonight, I’m struggled with purity. How do I worship God? Does this mean God will not receive anything from my hands?” Then it’s that point that I want you to see the beauty of Malachi 1. That is exactly the kind of worship that God desires.
Isaiah 66:2: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” If you are sitting here thinking, “Well, how can I ever worship? How can I do this?” Then you’re exactly where you need to be. We are definitely not where we need to be if you’re sitting in this room tonight; and you’re thinking, “Well, I don’t trivialize His greatness; and I’ve got no problems with His holiness.” That’s where the priests were, and they had missed the whole point.
And it’s at this point of humility and contrite, brokenness before God. “I can’t do this. I can’t be holy, my own. I can’t give this God the glory that He is due.” Because it’s at that point we realize in Malachi 3, He talked about a messenger of the covenant who would come; and that messenger comes just one book later in the Bible; and in Christ, don’t miss it, this is why we need Christ, Malachi 1 is showing us our need, the depths of our need for Christ.
The Person Who Alone Makes Worship Count…
We are like Isaiah in Isaiah 6 standing in front of the glory of God and saying, “Woe is me. There is no way I can be in the presence of this King.” And Christ says, “I will take your sin upon myself so that you can experience the greatness of God. So that you can stand in His presence. I atone for your sin.”
Not only stand in His presence, but in Christ, we approach His presence with boldness, Hebrews says. Approach the throne of grace with confidence in Christ. What an amazing picture that you and I would have the privilege of coming before the God of the universe with confidence because of what Christ has done for us. And Christ, we experience firsthand His greatness. What about our sin? Well, in Christ we reflect His holiness. See how Christ makes worship possible. There is no way you and I can stand before a holy God except for if the sinlessness and the perfection and the holiness of Christ was attributed to us; and that is the beauty of salvation. Christ took our sins upon Himself in order that we might become the very righteousness of God. We stand before God holy by the blood of Christ. We reflect the holiness of God.
We’re not only experiencing His greatness and reflecting His holiness; but, in Christ, we will accomplish the purpose of God. Christ has given us His Spirit, who lives inside of us. The same Spirit that wants Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth for the glory of God. His Spirit lives in us and enables us, provides us, resources us with everything we need to accomplish this purpose. In Christ, we accomplish the purpose of God, we don’t miss out on the purpose of God. Malachi 1 points us to the supremacy of Christ and our need for Christ.
And so if you are here tonight and you see this picture of worship and you don’t want to trivialize the greatness of God, and you want to revere and respect the holiness of God, and you want to accomplish the purpose of God, then run to Christ. Run to Christ. Cling to Christ; and, through Christ, experience His greatness. Through Christ, reflect the very holiness of God; and, through Christ, accomplish the purpose of God. This is how Christ makes worship possible.
The worst thing, though, we could do is to sit back and continue on in religious activity week after week after week in a way that downright insults the God we’re claiming to worship. Let me show you one more thing, and we’ll finish.
Look over in 1 Peter. You’ve got to see this. If you don’t make this application, we will miss the whole point of what God desires to teach us in Malachi 1 and the picture of His priests. Go to 1 Peter, the New Testament. Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter. It’s right before 2 Peter if that helps – 1 Peter 2. Listen to 1 Peter 2, and I want you to underline or circle one word. It’s repeated two times here in 1 Peter 2. An incredible picture, 1 Peter 2:4, “As you come to him, the living Stone —rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—” listen to verse 5, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy” – what? “Priesthood.” Is this cool? Circle that—“priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
Down in verse 9, same thing. “You are,” – He’s talking to the church – “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:9). Circle it. “A holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Picture in the Old Testament, you had a few guys who were priests; and they were the ones who ministered the worship of God and approached the presence of God. The priests did. New Testament, Christ dies on the cross; rises from the grave. This whole picture of the temple being torn into two. He ascends into Heaven. Our great, high priest – so that you and I have the privilege of priests in the Old Testament; but in a much, much greater way; because our sins are covered by the blood of Christ; and we come before Him and glimpse His glory.
If God looked at the priests in that day and said, “Don’t miss the point of worship.” How much more is He saying to His people in contemporary culture, contemporary Christianity? “Do not trivialize my greatness. Stop disregarding my holiness in the church. Stop trading in the Word of God for the wisdom of the world. Stop trading in the purity of God for the pleasures of this world and the money this world has to offer, the success this world has to offer; and stop trading in acceptance with God for the applause of this world; and get in on my purpose. From the rising to the setting of the sun, I am making my glory known; and I am using you to do it.”
These are heavy truths. It is a heavy picture; but it is a picture we need to see of worship; and so what I want us to do is I don’t want this to be a quick fix where, now, we close the Bibles and we go off to the small, minute details that we are going to give ourselves to all the rest of this evening. I have no question that the adversary would want nothing more than to enable us to leave at this point and, within one cell phone call or one conversation, just completely negate the heaviness of what He desires to teach us tonight.
And so I want us to let it soak in. And over the next couple of minutes, I want to invite you into a time of reflection and prayer on the picture we’ve seen in God's Word; and I want you to honestly ask yourself the question: Are you trivializing His greatness; and are there areas of life where you’re disregarding His holiness and missing out on His purpose. And I want you find in Christ tonight in this time of reflection. The point of reflection is not to make you feel horrible. The point is that we’ll be driven to Christ in our worship.
We realize what it means to have a life, not just a song, but a life that declares Hallelujah, praise the Lord. A life of worship and if that means you’re sitting where you are and praying, that is great. If that means you’re moving out in the aisles and falling on your face before the King of glory, then great. Or coming to the front if you’d like to do that or on the sides, I want to invite you to come before the glory of God, seriously, reverently, and reflect on what we’ve seen in His Word, as these guys sing over us; and then, after they’ve sung over us for a few moments, then they’re going to lead us in a song where we’re going to have the opportunity to join together as a congregation tonight of those who have trusted in Christ to declare His glory as our King.
And I want to invite you to join with the host in making His glory known in song. And I know that in these moments, there are people across this room who maybe have never come to the point in your life where you have personally encountered the greatness of God. You’ve never asked God to forgive you of your sins through Christ. You’ve never run to Christ, and I want to invite you to do what people did across this room all last month to right now, for the first time in your life, run to Christ and trust in Christ to save you from your sins. As you reflect, and as you pray, pray, “God, I need you to forgive me of my sins. Forgive me for trivializing your greatness and disregarding your holiness. I want to know you for the first time tonight.”
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