Let Nothing You Dismay
May the mercy of God of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so clearly revealed, that when you have strayed into disobedience and sin, you simply remember the promise and return, knowing He will cleanse you from all sin and unrighteousness. AMEN!
There are words that we hear God speak through Malachi this evening that are brutally scary.
“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?
That’s a hard question, will you be able to face God when he appears? When he brings our the Law and compares your life against it? Will you be ready?
Or will you be one of those who Jesus spoke of, when Matthew records,
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
Matthew 7:21 (NLT2)
While my head knows I can count on God’s grace, my heart and soul struggle to hear those words. And it gets scarier,
At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I wonder if we have lost a healthy fear of God, a fear that drives us to Him, to ask for the mercy He has promised us?
Or do we just keep dwelling in our sin, in the guilt and shame that drives us into the ground?
You see, our fear of God shouldn’t drive us away from Him, but it should drive us toward him. That is what God is talking about through Malachai when he says,
God doesn’t Change
6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them.
We have to understand that about God, that while he abhors the sin, He doesn’t hate us. He wants to be in a relationship with us, not destroyed for what we have done, and what we’ve not done. A healthy fear of God realizes that He is patient and merciful, and has always intended to be.
That’s why he hasn’t wiped us out and destroyed us, pouring out His wrath upon us.
He has never wanted to, it is not what He desires, and so He is patient, waiting for us to remember the promise and return.
Here is that promise,
Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Return to me, and I will return to you! What a promise, what a God who promises not to leave us alone in the midst of our brokenness, but promises forgiveness, cleansing and healing!
The people of that day struggled, they ask how they could return when they never left.
We don’t have to do that, we know that He wants us to return, so we don’t have to play that game. We see how much He wants us return, as we think about Jesus coming into the flesh, dwelling with us, teaching us about the love of God then demonstrating it on the cross.
Return to me He says, and so we do, as we move into our time of confession, knowing God will be faithful to forgive us…knowing that He will return to us.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 The people say, “Let’s return to the LORD! He has hurt us, but he will be sure to heal us; he has wounded us, but he will bandage our wounds, won’t he? 2 In two or three days he will revive us, and we will live in his presence. 3 Let us try to know the LORD. He will come to us as surely as the day dawns, as surely as the spring rains fall upon the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3 (TEV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation n to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, o and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.
18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. Romans 1:16-20 HCSB
If the Church stays “indoors,” she certainly will age.
The Church is called to come out of herself and to go to the “existential peripheries,” where the mystery of sin, pain, injustice, religious indifference and of all human miseries are found.
In fulfilling its educational role, the Church, eager to employ all suitable aids, is concerned especially about those which are her very own. Foremost among these is catechetical instruction,16 which enlightens and strengthens the faith, nourishes life according to the spirit of Christ, leads to intelligent and active participation in the liturgical mystery17 and gives motivation for apostolic activity.
Romans 1:16 is, for Bible College and Seminary students, repeated often.
I am not ashamed!
But this isn’t a badge of honor, it is not considering the context. It is a call to go out, and help those who have been caught up by sin, those who are in bondage to it, those who are broken by it.
We are to be there for the people without excuse, but therefore, without hope. The word for excuse there is the negative form of the word of the apostle Peter uses when he declares,
15 But have reverence for Christ in your hearts, and honor him as Lord. Be ready at all times to answer anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you, 1 Peter 3:15 (TEV)
This world, so full of misery and strife, so full of pain that they have become indifferent to religion cannot realize that they can return to the Lord, That they can return to the Lord who allowed them to deal with the consequences of the sin of the world, including their sin.
They don’t know that God will come to heal them, that they can know Him, not just academically, but in a deep rich way, more deeply that can e described by words, but is celebrated as we take the Body Broken for us, as we share in the blood shed for our sins.
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel because it presents hope to these people who are unaware of that hope even exists, that broken relationships, can be healed, THAT GOD CARES FOR THEM.
This has to be the message of the church. It is not that we are better than them, holier than them that we go out to encounter the world. It is because we found hope for our brokenness, hope that we are being healed, being transformed, a work that isn’t always easily visible, but one that God has promised to do.
If we are not ashamed of this hope, of this ability we are all given to interact and depend on God, then there is no excuse for the church to get old. The is no excuse for us hiding within the doors of our churches, waiting for the pastor to grow our church. We have a world that doesn’t need us to complain about them, but that needs us to give them the hope we have, to help them return to the Lord, to know that anyone can die with Christ and the cross, and be raised to a new life with Him, in Him.
This is the gospel, that God loves us…
Let us not hide that hope within our walls, but let it burst out as fast as the kids run for donuts after service gets out!
Lord have mercy on us all! And help us to spread the news you have!
Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 192). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.
Catholic Church. (2011). Declaration on Christian Education: Gravissimum Educationis. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.