Look! I am sending my messenger! He will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord, whom you are seeking, will come to his temple! The Messenger of the Covenant, in whom you delight, will surely come, says the Lord of Armies.

2But who can endure the day when he comes? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like launderers’ bleach! 3He will be seated like a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and like silver. They will belong to the Lord and bring him an offering in righteousness.  4Judah and Jerusalem’s offerings will be pleasing to the Lord as they were in the days of old, in years long ago.

Malachi 3:1-4

When I wrote my sermon I was planning on using a visual aid to show you, but I can’t because I don’t have any.  Oh, we probably have three or four of them at home, but like us, my guess is that you will receive fewer Christmas Cards this year than last year.  I say this because more and more information is being shared with everyone on Facebook and Instagram. And those who really care about you will probably be your “friends” and watch what you’re doing.  As you think about the various Christmas cards you’ve received over the years, what is on the cover? Snow covered homes with Christmas lights? Or snowy evergreen scenes in the woods? Some have Santa, and some have angels, shepherds, cattle and some cards have the picture of Jesus’ Nativity. If you were to create a Christmas Card, what scene would you draw?  I don’t think you would draw Jesus with his sleeves rolled up and a bottle of Tide Laundry detergent under his arm to bring us peace!  But, today, as we read from the Prophet Malachi we learn that his Christmas Card to us looks just like that! Malachi is picturing for us an accurate picture of what Jesus who came to give us peace!  Are you prepared to meet him?  And if you are, or if you’re not, we would all agree that we want to be ready.  Therefore, may the Holy Spirit cause us to be ready as Jesus Comes With Gifts, for

Peace Requires Preparation

Purifying Our Hearts For Peace

Malachi lived about 400 years before Jesus was born. Because the people refused to worship the Lord, the Israelites were “purified” many times (the Great Flood, the Exile in the Egypt, Assyria and Babylon).   About 100 years had passed since the exiled Jews returned from Babylon to rebuild the Lord’s Temple. Once again the Lord was starting over with his chosen people. They came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and the Walls of Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for them to lose focus.  They laid the foundation of the Temple but then they thought it was more important to build their own beautiful homes rather than a place to worship the Lord. They also ignored God’s warning not to intermarry with the heathen nations around them and once again it didn’t take long, about one generation, for them to neglect the worship of the Lord for the worship of idol pleasure and false gods. They lied, cheated each other and cheated God, and looked like anything but God’s chosen people—spiritual indifference was the new normal. Ironically, the people pointed to all their problems and questioned the presence of the Lord,

“Where is the God of justice?”

Malachi 2:17

Malachi’s answer was basically this, “Oh, don’t worry, you will meet him face-to-face.  Are you sure you’re ready??  No! They were anything but a nation of peace, but rather a nation of spiritual turmoil.

With all of this going on what would you expect God to say? “That’s enough!  I can’t stand these people any longer!”  Malachi was exactly right, wasn’t he?

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire.”

Too many times, yes, for thousands of years his people were unfaithful, ungrateful and rebelled against their gracious Lord.

Times haven’t changed much have they?  You say you love God but only 33 showed up to worship the Lord this past Wednesday – that’s right – only 33 out of 175 members! Do your actions back up your words?  For those of you who weren’t here, what was so important that you couldn’t come to worship Jesus? Or I love this one.  The lady who said, “Pastor, my life is all a shambles.  The kids are crazy and our family is so out of control!”  “Wait!” I thought to myself, “I don’t think I’ve seen you in worship for several months!  I wonder what the problem could be!”  Or what about those of you who say God is powerful but when you run into the first signs of difficulty you accuse God of abandoning you!  And of course we forget about the times we did try to go out on our own sinful way and how badly we messed up relationships, friends and lives! We seem to conveniently forget that it was God who bailed us out of the mess we had gotten ourselves into.

How do you think God should deal with us? After hearing about the rebellion and sin of the Israelites and us we would expect God to send Malachi to tell us he was going punish the unfaithful.

“But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire.”

He is serious about sin and will condemn all those who disown him and refuse to acknowledge him as Lord. We all deserve God’s refining fire!

So here’s the point. The Book of Malachi begins with God’s people questioning if God really loved them. Yes, he had already chosen them as his own special people.  Yes, he had already promised to give them heaven through faith in the Messiah. But, that wasn’t enough.  They also want God to give them the comforts of earth as though the deserved it. They desired Messiah—the Sugar Daddy, not Messiah—the Savior from sin.  Yet, we learn of God’s amazing grace at work. This is the Promise That Brings Peace! When Jesus came, he always had the best attitude when going to worship, and wouldn’t THINK about missing the change to hear God’s Word and have fellowship with God’s people.  Jesus gave up his throne in heaven to take on flesh, so we can kneel beside the manger and marvel at his love for us.  Jesus always worked to establish the perfect relationship with his Father in heaven—and he did all of this for you and me!  He did not come to slaughter his people for their rebellion, but he came to purify them and give them his gift of peace!

Don’t you find it so sad that too many times people say, “Do I really need to put God first?”  Well, by not having a faith sharpened by the Word of God is like trying to cut down a tree with a dull chain saw (tell the story of Daniel’s big tree) or like trying to cut tomatoes with a dull knife.  It just isn’t going to go well.  Likewise, to realize our life is a mess but refuse to trust in God who fixes our messes—the prophet Haggai says it so well,

“You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it”

Hagggai 1:6

Don’t you just want to hug them and say, “You’ve been trying it your way and how’s that working out for ya?  Try putting God first in your life and see what happens!” God’s way is to bring us his Promise that bring us peace!

Many times you’ve heard a preacher say, “The work Jesus did on the cross is complete, but the results are ongoing.”  Do you really appreciate what that means? Praise God for placing the punishment of our sins on Jesus.  Malachi puts it this way,Malachi 3 2

“For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like launderers’ bleach! 3He will be seated like a refiner and a purifier of silver. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and like silver. They will belong to the Lord and bring him an offering in righteousness.”

Purifying faith is a painful process. No matter what you say the “fire & Bleach” represent, there’s pain involved. You know how God continues to purify our faith, it is very similar to cleaning our homes. Dust, clutter and dirty clothes litter our home and we know under all the mess is a fine place in which to live.  So, we get to work to clean it all up. Yes, the Law will drive us to a healthy pain over sin and inability to clean ourselves up. It might also involve removing the things we love that hinder our relationships with Christ and his Means of Grace. To many these things seems pointless, but in the hands of the

“Silversmith”

and the

“Launderer”

–that is the

“Messenger of the Covenant”

they work for good. Weakness forces us to rely on his strength. Sorrow forces us to seek comfort that Jesus can provide. Do you see?  Our God is so good! He allows and even brings the painful fires and soaps of this life to purge our faith of impurities , so that we might avoid a greater, eternal fire! Then we will be able to stand and face the final day with peace!

May the Lord continue to purify our hearts with his Law so that we might be ready to receive Jesus when he comes with his gifts—his gift of peace that….

Purifies our hearts with Peace

Many Students are taking their semester tests before Christmas.  If they are properly prepared for their tests, they’ll be a little nervous.  If they don’t study, they’ll be terrified! If you’re going in for a job interview and have prepared (updated and polished your resume; thought through how you were going to answer anticipated questions), you’ll have more peace than just going into the interview and winging it. Well, when you confess, “Jesus is coming to judge the living and the dead” and you hear Malachi say,

2But who can endure the day when he comes? Who will remain standing when he appears?”

When Jesus returns there is only one person who will be ready to meet him! : The one who is prepared! The one who is prepared will enjoy peace…even on that day!  So, let’s talk about HOW we are prepared!

God sent message to prepare our hearts with peace:

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.”

The Lord promises to send us the first “messenger” (John the Baptist) who prepared the people with God’s law to repent and turn to trust in the second

“messenger of the covenant”

who comes to purify the hearts of his people. There you have it! Jesus came to purify us.  No, he didn’t use a bottle of Tide detergent, but he used his blood. Jesus’ blood didn’t contain any of its own sin but absorbs all of our sinfulness like a big sponge. Or like a fire used to take the impurities out of silver, so Jesus cleanses us from all our sins and gives us his robe of righteousness to wear. Jesus came and laundered our lives!

Therefore do not be surprised when you lose your job or get sick.  You’re living in a less that peaceful world!  Yes, students have to study for tests, we need to make travel plans, and we need to purchase and wrap presents.  These are all things that we must prepare.  Let us also prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth and his return to take us to heaven. When that happens look forward to seeing how God will continue to care for you just as he has in the past.  No, this is not permission to sit back and be lazy, but it is the opportunity to take what the Lord has placed on your plate and be faithful with your time, talents and treasures as God’s faithful servants.  Let us especially be a part of C18 and inviting our friends, relatives, acquaintances and neighbors to Christmas Eve!

We should all get some Christmas cards in the mail. This year, every time you open up a Christmas Card I want you to think of Adam and Eve hiding in the Garden after they had sinned.  But, as you open up the card remember God’s promise to bring you gifts—especially his gift of peace through Jesus. Remember how much work and preparation Jesus took in order to bring us that peace! Remember the message of John the Baptist to prepare our hearts with repentance and trust in the Lord. Remember that is was hard work for us because he loved us so much.  It is that time of the year when we also will enjoy some big days. A Christmas party is fun, but it is preceded by hours of planning and work. Opening up presents is fun, but only after hours of shopping, wrapping and work. Now is the time for the hard work that gets us ready for the Gifts Jesus brings—God’s promise to us is his Gift of Peace thru Jesus! Amen.