Malachi - A Book of Warning Against Those Who Would Lead God's People Chapter Four - Time To Decide Who and Where You Are “For 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. But 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. And 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. - Malachi 4: 1-3 (ESV) The Book of Malachi concludes with a very short chapter. The Prophet has spent the first three chapters rebuking and warning the spiritual leadership about their many and varied transgressions. In Chapter One we saw the nature of the polluted offerings they were making, similar to Christian leadership today that makes a mockery of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of carnal growth theories and horizontal church growth. We saw two distinct critiques offered in Chapter Two. First we saw the priests were violating the Covenant of Levi and second they were violating the covenant of marriage. The parallels to today's church were crystal clear as we see leaders making a mockery of their marriage vows and of their sacred responsibility to guard the Word of Truth and divide it correctly. Chapter Three revealed the fact that the people who were robbing God were actually the leadership! That the current use of Malachi Chapter Three to prop up the tithing system is false theology and simply inaccurate. God could have left it there but He adds this final chapter. A reminder to the leadership of exactly what is at stake in all of this. God did not set up the Levitical system for amusement. He did not send His only Son to die on an old wooden cross so we could run church bake sales and practice faux evangelism. There is blood hanging in the balance. Those that take on the mantle of Christian leadership need to remember that they will be held to a higher account. That what they speak from the pulpit or write from their computers could determine the eternal fate of everyone who hears and reads. This was not lost on the Apostle Paul: Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. - 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV) Doctrine has become a dirty word in pop Christianity these days. Joel Osteen once said it was not his "gifting" to preach about the doctrine of Christianity. It is not his gifting because he is not a pastor. What we see here in the culmination of Malachi is after getting four very specific rebukes, God wants the priests to remember how important it is that they approach their responsibilities with reverent awe. Obviously they had forgotten if they could so easily and callously treat their covenants so poorly. This thing called Christianity isn't a game beloved. It is not meant to be treated so frivolously as we see every day by the very people who should teach us reverence. When I see new television shows like the Preachers of L.A. It saddens me because people will watch that and think that is what Christ is all about. They will stay away because of it and they will end up in hell as a result. Yes, that word I used was HELL. I know we do not hear that word anymore in the purpose driven-seeker friendly paradigms but it is a reality and Malachi Chapter Four reminds us today. So what do we see in the key verses today? First off I see that in the last day the arrogant and evildoers will be set ablaze and reduced to stubble. There will be nothing left of them beloved - not branch or root. I know that modern Christianity has an unhealthy obsession with the grace of God but the wrath of God is just as real. Don't scream legalism until you realize that Christ spoke all the time about the reality of hell. His ministry was one of repentance, not just healing and love. The truth is there is no healing and love without godly sorrow and repentance. Think about it. What are you being healed for? This life? yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. - James 4: 14 (ESV) What good is it to be healed for a life that is like a mist only to spend eternity in hell? How is it love to convince people this is their best life now? There are no seven steps to a better you if that better you still gets set ablaze and is reduced to stubble. I find it interesting that God uses the word arrogant here and not just evil doers. There is a real arrogant streak running through modern Christianity when it comes to personal salvation. People say a quick and dirty 30 second prayer and they think that they are saved. Nothing changes in their lives however and there is no regeneration of the heart. It is the height of arrogance to tell someone they are saved when you have not discussed their sin and their desperate need for repentance. I am not talking about living a doubtful existence when it comes to salvation. I know I am saved. But I also know that I am supposed to approach that salvation as God instructs me to: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, - Philippians 2: 12 (ESV) There is little fear and trembling left in the modern church. It has been replaced with arrogance. Because what the key verses really teach us today is there are only two choices. One is the ablazed stubble and the other is the leaping calves treading down the wicked for they will be ashes under the soles of our feet. There is no third option. There are only two roads. The broad path that leads to destruction and the narrow path that leads to life everlasting. That's it. The only question that remains for each of us is which road are we on? Before you answer too quickly, remember that standing in a church does not make you a Christian anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car. Your ministries and volunteer work does not make you a Christian. Your tithing record and generosity does not make you a Christian. Realize beloved that these verses were addressed to the spiritual leaders of their day! They certainly must have thought arrogantly that they were heaven bound! They had plenty of religion! What was God saying to them! There are two choices coming and you better make sure you know who you are. There are two paths and you better know which one you are on. And beloved - we do not answer these questions based upon our religious works: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ - Matthew 7: 21-23 (ESV) The people Jesus speaks about here clearly based their salvation arrogantly upon their works. Go back to the key verse and see what is the qualifier for those who will be saved? Those who fear the name of the Lord. Not those who bathe in the grace of God. Not those who prosper in this life. Not those who have the biggest congregations and the most opulent churches. Not those who serve in multiple ministries. Not those who cast demons out. Not those who perform many miracles. Not those on TBN. Not those who have the Christian books bestseller. Not those who are purpose driven. Not those who are emergent and seeker friendly. Not those who think people who correctly divide the Word need to lighten up. None of them beloved shall leap like calves on the great Day of the Lord. Only those who fear His name. Only those who are working out their salvation with fear and trembling. There are only two choices. There are only two paths. It is time beloved to figure out who and where you are, while we are still on this side of eternity. Rev. Anthony.