Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, November 17, 2019
He Will Turn (Restore) the Hearts - November 17, 2019 - Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) - Text: Malachi 4:1-6
As we approach the end of the Church year, next week is the last Sunday in this current church year, so our readings turn our attention, our hearts and our minds to thoughts of the end times, the return of Jesus and the day of judgement. When Jesus first came to earth as a human, as God incarnate, His coming was some 4000 years after the first promise and unfortunately, too many people either missed His coming or simply could not and would not believe in Him. Now, as Jesus Himself tells us, as in the days of Noah, as in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, so it is today, people are going about their lives oblivious to the fact that the end is coming and so today, as we have only waited some 2000 years since Jesus’ promise to return, too many people are oblivious to His eminent return, or simply do not believe He will return during their life time, thus they are eating and drinking, marrying and being given into marriage, thinking that this life will go on. When Jesus returns, and I believe that His return will be soon, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect, we will be unable to say, “Hey, I wasn’t ready, I didn’t know.”
The day of the Lord’s return is coming. We begin at verse one of our text, “1For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts” (v. 1-3). The Lord, speaking through the prophet Malachi warns us of the day of judgement. On the day of judgement, the believers will be judged to heaven or as Malachi says it, “the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” And the unbelievers will be judged to hell or as Malachi states it, “you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet.”
But notice what Malachi does not say. He does not tell us the day nor the hour of the Lord’s return. He does not give us this information, because He wants us to be ready at all times. He does not want us to be wasting our time up until the day or the day before His return, but His desire is that we are ready and that we work to get others ready as well.
Malachi continues encouraging us to remember the Law. Picking up at verse four, “4Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel” (v. 4). We are to remember the law of Moses, the Ten Commandments and we are to obey them. Obedience is important, but not simply for the sake of obedience. Obedience will not save anyone for the simple fact that we cannot be perfectly obedient and that is because we are conceived and born in sin so we are born in imperfection with a sin tainted will and so we cannot be obedient. Yet, Malachi encourages us that with the Lord’s help we are to strive for obedience.
We know that true Godly obedience flows out of a response of faith. It was Jesus who came to earth, God in flesh, who lived for us, being perfect for us, being perfectly obedient for us, in our place and then taking our sins and paying the price for our sins on the cross. Jesus’ work, His life, His living for us, being perfectly obedient for us in our place because we cannot, this work is what stirs in us a response of faith to strive to be obedient, even if it is an imperfect obedience.
Finally, God, through Malachi tells us that He will send Elijah. Picking up at verse five, “5Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (v. 5-6). There are many of the Jewish faith today who continue to look for the coming of Elijah. Yet, Jesus Himself tells us that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, thus, John the Baptist, in the spirit and power of Elijah, did appear “before the great and awesome day of the Lord.”
John’s appearing ushered in Jesus’ appearing. Jesus’ coming ushered in the end times. Jesus birth was the signal that we are now living in the last days. So, God waited some 4000 years before fulfilling His first promise to send a Savior and now He has waited some 2000 years and has not yet sent Jesus the second time. Does this mean He will wait another 2000 years or even 1000 years? We do not know, all we know is that Jesus has ushered in the end times and so we are living in the end times. We are living in the last days of this world. And please understand that to be living in the last days of this world can mean either that the Lord will return, or perhaps even more sure is the fact that we will pass on from this world and we will meet the Lord. Either way, the Lord’s return or our passing will be our last day and the day we will meet the Lord and stand before Him for our own judgement. And as I continually remind you, that day will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine, thus we are to be ready.
John the Baptist came preparing the way for Jesus. Jesus came as the Messiah. The awesome day of the Lord was that day in which Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered and paid the price for our sins. Jesus died the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place. Jesus died but He did not stay dead, but rose so that He is alive.
Now, today, only those who believe in Jesus will be saved. This exclusive claim is why we Christians are so hated by the rest of the world. But think about it this way, if there are many ways to heaven, then Jesus was a lunatic, because why would He go through what He went through, suffering and dying, if there were many ways to heaven? Or, Jesus is the Messiah. The law of non-contradiction tells us that all the religions of the world cannot be true because they contradict each other. So, we are either saved by Jesus, or we are not.
What does this mean? Our lessons for this morning remind us of what is important in life, that we are to be ready at all times for Jesus’ return. Jesus will return. Just as God kept His first promise to send a Savior, and even though He took 4000 years to keep His promise, He did keep His promise, so He will keep His promise to return and even though we have waited only 2000 years so far, that does not mean He will wait another 2000 years. And should He tarry beyond our own life, the fact of the matter is we will pass on from this world, we will die and when we die we will stand before the Lord. So, again I will remind you, either way, when we die or when He returns, we will meet the Lord and stand before Him to be judged at the end of the world.
As we approach the end of the church year, as every year, we are reminded that the end will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might imagine. We are reminded that the most important thing for us in this world in this life is to be ready for that last day, for our standing before the Lord to be judged. So, are we ready? And how do we know if we are ready? And how do we get ourselves ready?
How do we know if we are ready? We know we are ready when our complete faith and trust is in Jesus alone for our salvation. If we are not ready, how do we get ourselves ready, or if we are ready, how do we stay ready? Actually, it is not so much our getting ourselves ready as it is the Lord getting us ready and He gets us ready through the means He has given to get us ready, His means of grace. The means of grace are those means or those ways the Lord has given us to come to us to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give and those means are His Word, the Bible and His sacraments, the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism as well as the means of confession and absolution. If you have ever wondered why we have confession and absolution every Sunday, why we have an invocation and benediction, why we hear the Word of the Lord in Holy Scripture and why we have the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, it is because it is through these very means that the Lord comes to us to give to us the good gifts and blessings He has to give. Thus, the Lord gets us ready by our making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. We make regular use of the means of grace by being in divine service whenever it is offered. We make diligent use of the means of grace by being as the Bereans, by checking what is preached and taught against God’s Word and by making use of His Word on our own.
Also, the Lord gets us ready by our right attitude in divine service, that is by our attitude of being given to. The dictionary defines worship as something we do for our god who desires or demands that we do something for him. God does not need anything from us which is why what we do on Sunday morning is not worship, but is divine service. We come to divine service first and foremost to be given to. Our divine service is permeated with the means of grace because God has chosen to come to us through these means to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give. Thus, we come to divine service to be given to by God and then to respond as moved by Him to respond. Our response of faith is to offer hymns of prayer, praise and giving thanks, to offer our prayers and to offer our offerings of gifts, tithes and first fruits.
Notice again and again and again, it all points to Jesus who does all and gives all. We know we are ready and we know we are getting it right when it all points to Jesus. Listen to your speech, how you say things, how you speak about the Lord and your relationship with Him, your faith and so forth. Do you speak about yourself and what you are doing or think you are doing for the Lord, or do you speak about the Lord and what He has done, is doing and will continue to do for you? When our lives, our speech, our actions point to Jesus running the show, then we are ready and our lives bear witness of the faith that the Lord has given us and put in our hearts.
Most of us do not like to think too much about the end of the world or our own death, but these things are important because we need to be ready. To not be ready could mean eternal death, which is hell, but to be ready means eternal life in heaven. Now more than ever is the time to be ready, to make sure we are ready, to get ready and to help others to be ready. My prayer is that you are ready. My prayer is that you will continue to make use of the means of grace to continue to stay ready. My prayer is that your life will serve to help others to be ready. So that ultimately, when we stand before the Lord, and we will stand before the Lord, He will look at us and our lives will boldly say, to You be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.