Here is the sermon for Sunday, January 23rd, 2011.

Malachi part 4

The seriousness of ministry.

Malachi 2:1-9 NIV – 1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me. 3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty. 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 name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.  7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Introduction: This is the 4th sermon in our verse by verse series into the book of Malachi.  You could basically call this sermon part 2 from last time’s sermon.  Last time we dealt with Malachi 1:6-14 and the subject, “contemptuous worship.”  This morning we are dealing with the subject, “the seriousness of ministry.”

Let’s just cut to the chase this morning:  church, ministry, and pastoring has become big business.   Instead of focusing on the heart of the Gospel in our preaching, and unpacking verses, chapters, and books of the Bible, we focus on felt needs, plus moral therapeutic speeches under the guise of sermons.  These things draw a crowd, make people feel better about themselves, and preach the Law wrongly and confuse the Gospel.  The result of this big business ministry is: People attending not knowing that they are dead in their trespasses and sins and false conversions.

Don’t believe me?  Well here are a few sermon titles that I found on the internet:

  • Elf, the sermon.
  • You University.
  • Real Harmony, the marriage you always wanted.
  • This year; the best year of your life.
  • Life’s short – have fun.
  • The pursuit of happiness.
  • Revolutionize your romance.
  • Money made easy.
  • Tools for success.
  • Heroes: you have what it takes.
  • Pure sex.
  • The office: work doesn’t have to suck.
  • The Gospel according to the Police.

I could go on, but I will stop there.  Now I’m not against catchy sermon titles per se….but not one of those sermons titles was derived from the study of the Scriptures.  Oh I’m sure there was plenty of passages read out of context, but not one of those sermons was actually started for the purpose of unpacking a text of Scripture.  Instead, they are unpacking topics that make people feel better about themselves.  Church, feeling better about yourself is not repentance, but a denial of the fact that we are sinners in need of forgiveness of our sins.

This is similar to the subject that the Lord deals with found within chapter 2 of Malachi.  The priests were no longer honoring God through their worship.  It had basically become big business.  Let’s begin unpacking our text, and let the Lord speak to us.

The calling of God to be His minister.

Malachi 2:5-7 – 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 name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.  7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.

Let’s quickly unpack these verses.

God made a covenant with Levi (verse 5).

  • Notice how God describes this covenant: a covenant of life and peace.  This covenant was to be revered by the priests and they were to be in awe of God’s name.

The priests were to teach true instruction and not falsehood; they were to walk with God in peace and unrightness; turning many from sin (verse 6).

The priest was a messenger of God Almighty and they were to give instruction to the people (verse 7).

I believe the qualities can be applied to all those who preach God’s Word today:

  • We are to preach truth from God’s Word, not falsehood.
  • We are to be walking with God in peace and uprightness, turning many from sin.
  • We are to be God’s messenger and give instruction to the people from God’s Word.
  • Sadly, that is not what modern preaching has become.  It is rather moralistic, entertainment driven, and therapeutic.
  • Let’s read the entire chapter of 1 Timothy 4.  There are many things said there that can apply to ministers preaching today.

1 Timothy 4 – 1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Let’s look at a few truths from 1Timothy 4 that I want to focus on:

  • We live in wicked times.
  • Paul gives us the minister’s job description: Labor and strive in your teaching; Devote your time/both private and public to the reading of the Scripture; Preach and teach the Scriptures; Watch your conduct and your doctrine; Persevere.

The warning of God to the minister.

Malachi 2:1-4 – 1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me. 3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the LORD Almighty.

Here the Lord uses some very, very strong language for the purpose of warning the minister.  Let’s begin unpacking these verses.

This warning is specific – to the priest (minister) (verse 1).

  • This warning is not written to those who are bringing the sacrifices to the priests, but to the priests themselves.
  • God loves those who preach His word enough to send a warning; and this warning is very specific.

If those who minister do not honor God, He will send a curse (verse 2).

  • God said He would curse their blessings.  Those things the priests enjoyed and the privileges they had because of being separated to minister to the people, those things would become a curse.
  • How can we apply this to our day?  Well, sadly so many a pastor and preacher has ignored preaching the truth of God’s word so long, that they no longer truly know what God’s word says.  Instead, they have drawn a crowd because of personality, or felt needs, and this supposed blessing is actually a curse.  Why?  Because many people are not truly growing in grace; many are not truly converted to Christ and therefore many are still lost and dying in their sins.
  • Many a Pastor/preacher will have to answer to God for this.  You see, God is not going to ask if we dealt with the felt-needs of the people; He is not going to ask how entertaining we were; or charismatic in our presentation.  But how did we handle His word.

If we refuse to preach God’s Word, we will be unclean before a holy God (verse 3).

  • Man, this is strong language God is using here.
  • He is saying to the priest that the dung that was to be taken outside of the temple and burned, because of their refusal to repent and handle the holy things of God with seriousness, God was going to literally “rub their noses” in the dung, thereby making them unclean.
  • Preachers have such a holy calling – to preach God’s word – line upon line, precept upon precept.  But instead, we are spreading the dung of entertainment and moralism.  If we refuse to repent, God is going to rub our noses in it.

God send this warning to the minister, not because he hates them, but because He wants them to repent and continue in their calling (verse 4).

  • God warns the priests here so that they might repent and God’s covenant with Levi might continue.
  • He warns the modern day preacher as well because He loves them.  He longs for them to repent and truly proclaim God’s word.
  • By doing this, the preacher might lose the favor of many a people; but He is surrounded by the favor of God.

The results of what happens when a minister turns away from preaching God’s Word.

Malachi 2:8-9 – 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

When the minister turns away from the holy things of God, they cause many to stumble (verse 8).

  • If the priests doesn’t take serious their calling, they will lead many astray.
  • If those called of God to preach God’s word accurately do not take that calling serious and consider it holy, they will cause many to stumble.
  • This is a very dangerous thing.  Jesus has a dire warning to those who cause others to stumble.

Matthew 18:6-7 – 6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!

God will cause the minister to become despised and humiliated (verse 9).

  • Many a minister has become despised and humiliated because of moral failure, or some type of failure.
  • But chances are this failure didn’t start with a lack of morality, but with a lack of preaching God’s Word faithfully.

Conclusion: As we conclude, let me just add a few application principles:

  • Test everything a preacher says. This test isn’t done with your pet doctrines or verses pulled out of context or your feelings and liver shivers, but with the clear, contextual reading of Scripture.
  • If a preacher does not preach God’s Word but some moralistic therapeutic entertainment driven speech: quit listening to them. My counsel to everyone here is to simply turn your Christian television off and open up your Bibles, the Bible will not lead your astray, but many within Christian media are led astray and will lead many astray.
  • Finally, pray for all those who are called to preach God’s Word. Pray for those who are endeavoring to righty handle God’s word ; pray that they continue to do so.  Pray for those who do not, but who focus on silly godless myths instead; pray that God would grant to them repentance and the forgiveness of their sins.
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