Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011 | John Bayles | The Fifth Dispute: Return To Me! (Malachi 3:6-12)

Imagine the living God, the Eternal One, the Holy One, the One who created and sustains the universe, the loving, redeeming, and restoring Almighty who created man and draws him into personal fellowship. If we have difficulty appreciating this sentence, then we may very well have some of the same challenges that Malachi found in the nation of Israel. They had lost the understanding of the nature of their God and they had forgotten that He was both loving and just. They had come to think that God was an idea shaped by their personal liking and that He would not hold them responsible to His holy standards.

A modern philosophy states that each of us has a personal God.  Have you thought this way? For example, one might say, "Well I don't think my God would do that, or say that, or require that". This  view asserts that the only standards are ones that are standard with me.  My truth is mine, your truth is yours.  My god is mine, your god is yours. Contradictions don't matter to this irrationality, because when it comes to God, we each have our own right to our own truth. This thinking, however, leads us into error and eventually irrelevance.  If God is only a personal truth choice, then He is not Himself God.

What is Malachi's message in this madness?  "Return to me, and I will return to you!"  The framework for Malachi's address is in the form of the indictment: "You have robbed me."  Because this is such a well known text, we recognize the illustration Malachi uses of tithing.  Though tithing is his illustration, it is just one of any number of examples of how Israel had turned their hearts and then their actions away from God.  The subject of tithing is discussed in this sermon, but considerable emphasis is given to the main issue of this dispute: turning back to a loving, fearing, honoring, covenant-keeping, cleansing relationship with God.

Is tithing important? Yes.  However, we must not get lost in the idea that money is the center of this discourse.  More than half the discussions about tithing in the Bible have to do with tithing that is not acceptable to God, because the heart of the giver is not right.  With fear that we do not fall into the current cheapening trap of viewing this text as the secret to Christian wealth, this sermon is aimed at Malachi's declaration to return with our whole heart to God in all of the activities of our lives.

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September 4, 2011 | John Bayles | The Fifth Dispute: Return To Me! (Malachi 3:6-12)

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