Walking in righteousness amidst a wicked world can make one cynical; even critical. The root of a critical sprit reveals itself from time to time in our lives when we complain to God about our situation and compare our lives to those who live independently of God and appear to escape his eye. Even with our secure identity in Christ we might often think that the grass is greener on the side of those who do not follow God, but not so green on our own side. Yet, even in being critical of our circumstance we are actually criticizing God. Let’s take a look at how we do this.
In Malachi 3, we see Israel as they fail to understand the benefit of keeping God’s law. In fact, those who followed God in their day said that those who do not know God appear to be happy while Israel looks like a mourner in it’s service to God. In their view, the evil are successful. Those who oppose God escape his judgement. On the other hand, those who know God and follow his ways, seemingly suffer great loss at times. Despite these claims from Israel, they were ignorant of their own hypocrisy (which is what the Lord is dealing with in the book of Malachi). Many were following God’s law in the public place but in the inner place; from a complete and undivided whole-heart. They were allowing idols into their life, rendering their worship acts invalid.
Amidst misdirected worship, what I find so interesting about this passage in scripture is that the Lord took notice of those who revered the Lord (3:16). Even though Israel’s self-inflicted piety had wrong motives and was mixed with hypocrisy, the Lord took notice of the righteous among them and considered their complaint. Then God makes a beautiful declaration by saying,”They (the righteous) will belong to me in the day when I prepare my own special property.”
You know, even in our own hypocrisy at times as Christians, God still makes a pronouncement about us. He says, ‘You belong to me.’ Through Christ, You belong to him. You are written in God’s book, his ‘memory book’ (literal translation) which is mentioned throughout scripture (Ex 32:32; Is 4:3; Dan 12:1; Rev 20:12-15). And, the book of life was prepared before the foundation of the world! What a picture of God’s grace and mercy!
Though Christ has distinguished us today in part from the Spirit’s deposit in our lives, why is the full distinction of the righteous to be revealed in eternity and not in the present? To put it bluntly, I don’t know the answer to this question. Nevertheless, let’s consider again the question the ancients asked by saying, “How have we been helped,” by serving the Lord? I do have the answer for that: We have been marked with distinction and set apart for the day of the Lord to be his and his alone.
Recently, I read a phenomenal quote that I read in a book by A.W. Tozer called, ‘The Pursuit of God’. Writing about following God, Tozer states:
” To have found God and still pursue him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the chidren of the burning heart. St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that will instantly be understood by every worshipping soul:
We taste thee, O thou living bread, and long to feast upon thee still;
We drink of thee, the fountainhead, and thirst our souls from thee to fill.
Come near to holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.”
As Tozer describes, the great mystery of worship is that ‘tasting and seeing that the Lord is good’ causes one to be full, yet desire more of Christ at the same time. This is the beautiful tension every worshipper of Christ experiences. In fact, David put it well in Psalm 42:2 by saying, “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and meet with God?”
I encourage you to let your heart go hard after God. Place yourself in his word to receive revelation about who He is. Intentionally go and meet with God. If you find your worship life drying up it is because you have removed yorself from receiving revelation about who God is. Revelation from God sourced out of the word and the spirit becomes the fuel for the fire in every worshipper’s burning heart of service for Christ.
Are you in shape this summer? Like so many people, I have been working out and trying to get in shape during the summer. I am doing some boot camp classes, a spin class, weights etc. Recently, I talked to a friend of mine who is a personal trainer. I told him my goals for working out and he instructed me on what I need to focus on to reach my goals. He mentioned that I need to run, do sit-ups, and eliminate some things that I eat – basically all the things that I don’t enjoy doing!
I think most of us, if we are honest, run into the same dilemma spiritually. There are things we will do to grow in the Lord, and then there are spiritual disciplines that we will neglect because they are too uncomfortable to pursue. Spiritual disciplines are a means for growing in grace and godliness – a pathway for pursuing the Lord. If you are interested in learning more about spiritual disciplines I can recommend 2 great books. First, The Celebration of the Disciplines by Richard Foster. Second, The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. These are 2 great books to read thoughtfully and add to your library. Also, here are some disciplines that you might want to engage in this summer to strengthen your inner self in the Lord:
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